Another Bafana coach confused by the permutations: King Broos slips up on the maths
Hugo Broos followed a familiar pattern among Bafana Bafana coaches after his team’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying win against Zimbabwe of being confused about the mathematical permutations South Africa will need in their final game away against Ghana on Sunday.
Broos continued his exceptional job steering a young Bafana, with many front-line players omitted as he builds towards the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, to the verge of the final round of Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying on Thursday night. Bafana went to an unheard of fourth successive qualifying win at FNB Stadium.
Ghana’s 1-1 draw against Ethiopia on Thursday afternoon and South Africa’s later win left Bafana (13 points, +5 goal difference) with a three-point lead of Group G over the second-placed Black Stars (10 points, +3 difference).
But Broos had the wrong impression at the end of the game that SA could go to Cape Coast and lose against Ghana, initially, he suggested, by two goals, and later by one.
Correctly, if Ghana win by a single-goal margin on Sunday they will go up to a +4 difference, and SA down to +4 (both on 13 points). The next criteria is most goals scored in the group — currently both Bafana and Ghana have six, so the Black Stars would improve by one, and they would progress.
Broos, even though he appeared to believe Ghana needed a 3-0 win, did at least stress that playing for a draw was not an option, and that Bafana have to be positive in Cape Coast.
“I think we would make the biggest mistake if on Sunday we were going to defend — then you will definitely concede goals,” the coach said.
“One goal is nothing, but the second goal maybe can follow, and then it becomes very tricky.
If you are just defending you lose the game and then hope that you don't lose the game with too many goals. But we will not do that
“So we have to, in some periods of the game, inflict pain on Ghana too. If you are just defending you lose the game and then hope that you don't lose the game with too many goals. But we will not do that.”
Pressed on the goal difference permutations, Broos revealed he clearly had the wrong impression on what would be needed for Bafana in Ghana.
“Yeah, OK, but you know we are three points ahead — we can also lose 1-0,” Broos said.
Pointed out that that was incorrect, Broos queried: “Is there goal difference first?”
He added, frustrated: “You know, we don’t have to count so much. If you start counting then it's finished. We are three points ahead.”
Nobody expects a national coach to sit with a calculator on the pitch during a game.
And, given no-one at the start of the campaign would have given Broos’ young Bafana a snowball’s chance in hell of leading Group G by three points with a game left, undefeated, and having conceded one goal in five matches, the coach’s mathematical error might seem not seem hugely notable.
It has some importance, though, in that, in the second half against Zimbabwe, with a 1-0 lead, Bafana mathematically faced the same outcome as with a draw — they would need a win or draw in Ghana to progress.
Had Broos known that, surely he would have had his team commit numbers forward more.
He, or at least one of his technical staff, should surely have made sure about the permutations in the hours between the Ghana-Ethiopia draw result being known and Bafana’s kickoff.
It was a schoolboy error from the hugely experienced 69-year-old. Of course, anyone who follows SA football knows Broos was not the first SA coach to have made one of its kind.
The coach will hope it does not come back to bite him and Bafana in Ghana.