Nothing can be taken for granted
Granted football is a pretty unpredictable sport. And at international level in particular, nothing can be taken for granted.
But when a team enjoys a 2-0 first leg lead against an outfit they have never lost to in open play – they’ve lost twice in penalty shoot-outs – you’d expect some bravado talk from their players, right?
It would make for good quotes and a great read of course, a break away from the normal dreary and somewhat rehearsed lines soccer players generally treat us to.
Imagine a player telling the gathered media that “the match is just a formality, a no-contest really because we are just better than them. You all saw it in the first leg, and even history backs us up.”
Well, keep on imagining. For Bafana Bafana were not about to go off the beaten track.
And so as they anticipated what should essentially amount to yet another ‘practice session’ against Botswana, the talk was the clichéd ‘this is a new ball game’ stuff. It started immediately after the 2-0 win in Francistown last weekend with debutant scorer Ryan Moon saying “the second leg is going to be just as difficult as the first leg was”.
The young Kaizer Chiefs player stuck to the (boring) script: “With international matches, anything can happen.”
Of course anything can happen, and in this particular tie the ‘anything’ should surely be a Bafana victory. Anything less and the players don’t deserve to wear the national jersey. This, after all is opposition South Africa have beaten nine times in 12 meetings, with one draw and two shoot-out losses. But then again Bafana are going to pretend the first leg didn’t happen.
“We just have to go out there knowing that the scoreline is now 0-0,” Moon continued. “We really need to win our game in order for us to go through.”
The truth though is even a 1-0 defeat will still see Bafana progressing to the next stage.
Another star of the first leg, Teboho Mokoena, left his teammates with a similar message as he left the squad to join his club SuperSport United.
“Yes, the lead is an advantage but doesn’t mean much. If we were able to score two goals away, then certainly it means they can do the same,” he reasoned.
Wouldn’t a more confident outlook rather be to say ‘if we can score two in their own backyard we should be able to put four past them when they come to visit”? He sung from the same sheet as Moon, describing the match at the Moruleng Stadium on Saturday as “a new ball game”.
“We have to work hard and ensure we win this game so as to proceed to the next round.”
Bafana’s record against Botswana would suggest any other result would be a travesty, especially given the first leg outcome. And how grand it would be to hear something unpredictable from our players for once.
Don’t hold your breath though.