Bafana Bafana's biggest challenge will come from within.
IN a group that has one of the tournament favourites, a former champion and plucky neighbours who could be a banana peel – Bafana Bafana’s biggest challenge will not come from those three teams, it will come from within.
Bafana’s mental frailties are well-documented, especially against minnows. That problem was exposed in the qualifiers of this Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) when they were held by Seychelles after thumping them 6-0 at FNB Stadium. Bafana went into that match with the belief that they would easily brush them aside.
That wasn’t the case, and their failure to get past minnows reared its ugly head. Stuart Baxter’s men will have to guard against this when they take on Namibia on June 28 in their second Group D match.
The 2015 African champions, the Elephants, and Morocco, who are among the favourites to win the tournament, will test Baxter’s flexibility.
The former Kaizer Chiefs mentor is renowned for the transition football his teams play, with a strong emphasis on set-pieces and aerial strength in the box.
Bafana’s attackers don’t have much aerial strength, except Lebo Mothiba and Lars Veldwuk who can match the Ivoirians and Moroccans’ towering defenders. South Africa’s tall centre-backs will come in handy in set-pieces, but the team will have to be flexible in attack.
They didn’t show this flexibility in most of the Afcon and even World Cup qualifiers with Bafana utilising fullbacks who whip inviting crosses but there was no one to connect with them as Percy Tau, who has been mainly used as the centre forward, isn’t much of a threat in the air.
Baxter struggled to use Tau at first, and even ignored him before he forced his way into the side with his performances.
“Percy has got to where he is by working hard and taking some of the knocks,” Baxter said after the Afcon draw. Tau’s resilience and character helped him get the better of towering defenders. Bafana played to his strength and that’s how they have been able to get the best out of him.
Bafana’s speed and sharp movement are their biggest arsenal, skills they have used well to knock down giants.