It would be wise for the 23 players who’ve been selected in the final squad to know they are not experiments. Instead, they are Bafana Bafana material, writes Mihali Baleka.
JOHANNESBURG – It’s now or never for Bafana Bafana! The South African national team has to ensure that they don’t leave any stone unturned during the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, given the fact that they last qualified for the global showpiece as hosts 11 years ago.
Bafana missed out on the last two World Cups in Brazil and Russia respectively. And that was a bitter pill to swallow, given the fact that they were tipped by many pundits to build on from their outing in 2010, albeit crashing out in the group stage.
But ahead of next year’s global showpiece, they’ll get a chance to try again. The South Africans are in Group G, alongside neighbours Zimbabwe, Ghana and Ethiopia. They’ll face The Warriors and The Blacks Stars next month, at home and away respectively.
It’s a new dawn for Bafana, considering that they have a new coach. Hugo Broos took over the reins from Molefi Ntseki, who was fired after his epic failure to guide the national team to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) early next year in Cameroon.
Broos, who had led the Indomitable Lions to continental glory four years ago, has selected a relatively youthful squad for the two qualifiers in September. He didn’t mince his words, saying he believes in the youngsters, given the fact that he’s rebuilding the team.
But perhaps, it would be wise for the 23 players who’ve been selected in the final squad to know they are not experiments. Instead, they are Bafana material. After all, continental competitions, be it international or interclub, are not for trials.
Broos selected most of his players based on what he’s seen, remotely, during the Cosafa Cup and Tokyo Olympic Games. But while Bafana claimed the former, the global showpiece qualifiers are a different kettle of fish altogether, considering the importance.
The players, therefore, cannot afford to hold back. They need to grind out the results. A win against Zimbabwe, ugly or impressively, in Harare on Friday will set a tone of where they are going as a team, considering that Ghana might be a tougher customer.
Some of the The Warriors’ players are plying their trade in the Premier Soccer League and others in Europe. The bigger challenge is obviously that some players have had a few weeks of action after the break. But Broos will take comfort from the fact that Chiefs selections also played in the Champions League final.
Broos’ masterstroke, though, will not only come during the match but from his players’ personalities as well. Seniors such as Ronwen Williams, Percy Tau and Innocent Maela have to come to the fore and hold the hand of the youngsters in such matches.
Tau’s recent move from English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion to Egyptian giants Al Ahly will be a morale booster for Broos, considering that one of his talismen is set to get game-time. Playing in the continent needs players who are match-fit.