Where we play our home matches is going to be key for Bafana
THERE once was a time when Tuesday night’s World Cup second round qualifying draw would have been met with chants of ‘Siyaya eQatar’ from Bafana Bafana fans.
Back then, the outcome of a clash with Ghana’s Black Stars was almost a foregone conclusion, the South African national team seemingly immune to defeat by the West Africans.
Incredibly, that was a time when Ghana has some of their top stars such as Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah.
But then again such was the talent in the Bafana squad that those icons of not only Ghanaian but continental football just could not match the likes of Doctor Khumalo and the late Shoes Moshoeu.
Remember how we smashed them in the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals?
Any thoughts that victory had to do with our enjoying homeground advantage was dispelled four years later when we knocked them out at the same stage of the biennial continental showpiece in their own backyard.
But then things took a turn when the generation of Stephen Appiah ended the jinx by helping the Black Stars get the better of Bafana in the qualifying competition for the 2006 World Cup.
Our national team has not qualified since (except for 2010 when they hosted) and the plan – as per ‘Vision 2022’ of the South African Football Association (Safa) – is to ensure Bafana go to Qatar for the World Cup.
It would appear, however, that Tuesday’s draw has thrown a spanner in the works.
After all, Bafana have to not only top Group G ahead of Ghana, as well as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, but need to also get the better of their next opponents in a home and away knockout tie.
New coach Molefi Ntseki has spoken confidently about his plan to become the third coach after Clive Barker and Carlos Quieroz to lead Bafana to World Cup qualification.
But there is the small matter of him having already lost to the Black Stars in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Will Ntseki find it in himself to inspire Bafana in the World Cup qualifiers?
While Ghana are clearly the major stumbling block to Bafana topping the group, it would be folly of anyone to think Zimbabwe and Ethiopia will be like lambs to the slaughter.
No self-respecting Bafana fan would have forgotten how Ethiopia contrived to end Pitso Mosimane’s reign as Bafana coach by beating our national team back in 2014.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, showed at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt that they can be pretty competitive.
I believe we can top the group. The key will be in Safa ensuring that the squad gets the proper support for each of their matches. And Ntseki and his players need to believe that they have the beating of not only Ghana but the other two as well.
Where we play our home matches is going to be key for Bafana. The opponents have to feel they are in a foreign land, unlike in previous times when we played key matches at a half-empty FNB Stadium.
Vision 2022 has to happen.
If it does not, our football must undergo a complete and total overhaul.