A dizzy night in Durban
What an evening last night at the Moses Mabhida Stadium! South African fans in Durban and throughout the country were no doubt celebrating well into the night and the early hours of Monday morning.
Bafana Bafana have transformed themselves from the ranks of mediocrity to winners, with their quarterfinal spot now confirmed.
With four points in the bag and perched atop Group A, Bafana Bafana went to war with the Atlas Lions, knowing that a draw would most likely be necessary in order to qualify. Meanwhile, the visitors from North Africa required a win to enable them to reach the quarterfinals.
With all to play for, what a match it turned out to be! Morocco opened the scoring early in the match but Bafana showed real fight and hit back through a well-taken goal from May Mahlangu. Setting himself up outside the 18-yard area, he looked up, steadied himself and curled the ball into the far corner. Pandemonium broke out inside Moses Mabhida as the crowd erupted.
Many feared the worst when the men from the north went ahead with 12 minutes to go. However, I was highly impressed with the way Bafana Bafana hung in and refused to lie down.
Man of the hour, Siyabonga Sangweni, is now making a habit of scoring classy goals. The big centre-back confidently placed the ball into the far corner, which proved enough for South Africa to advance past the group stages after more than a decade. They deserve to do battle in the next round.
Their comeback reminded me of the Arnold Taylor versus Romeo Anaya fight, when the South African boxer, Taylor, was battered to the canvas on many occasions. However, he kept coming back until he finally stopped Anaya in the 14th round.
Our boys were no different as they showed the footballing world that they can go all the way. Well done to all concerned, it was a night to remember and what can be best termed a real ‘classic’. The current team proved that they have the fighting spirit of the victorious class of 1996.
Dean Furman’s control of the midfield has proved masterful and his continued selection has allowed the team to play as one. I hope he’s offered the freedom of the city of Durban.
The justified selection of Tsepo Masilela at left-back has enabled Bernard Parker to get down the left touchline more often and provide the team the width that they need. I believe Bafana are now well on their way.
I feel that, as the tournament has progressed, so the quality of football has improved. Perennial champions-elect Ivory Coast were impressive in their 3-0 drubbing of Tunisia and certainly moved up a gear after their mediocre opener against Togo.
However, not to be outdone, Group C leaders Burkina Faso went one better and thumped Ethiopia 4-0, in spite of their goalkeeper being red-carded. They gave a wonderful display of how to score goals.
In my view, the Super Eagles of Nigeria have not come to the party as yet, having drawn their opening two encounters. If I’m being honest they have looked very ordinary in South Africa and have proved rather disappointing thus far.
In closing, I congratulate the Cape Verdean team. Prior to the tournament nobody gave them a chance.
It’s wonderful that the men from the small island nation came, saw and conquered and produced such good football over their three group games. They pushed Bafana all the way for top spot in Group A and, whatever happens from this point on, they can regard themselves as winners.
Let the quarterfinals roll on.