Bafana need to find balance
Before a ball was kicked in the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, an entertaining opening ceremony took place in stormy Highveld conditions. The tournament then got underway with the most important game since the 2010 World Cup, which pitted hosts South Africa against Afcon debutants Cape Verde.
Gordon Igesund showed his hand by selecting Bernard Parker and Lehlohonolo Majoro to play in tandem up front. This selection left South Africa’s premier striker Katlego Mphela warming the bench.
After a good start, where Thuso Phala was prominent, Bafana Bafana fell apart, opting to play aimless long balls forward. This approach gave neither of the strikers a chance to settle.
The central midfield pairing of Kagisho Dikgacoi and Reneilwe Letsholonyane could not get hold of the ball and the momentum of the first half went with the Cape Verdeans.
The visitors had the best chance to open the scoring when Luis Platini found himself in space with only Itumeleng Khune to beat. He, however, dragged his shot wide of the upright to the relief of the majority of the capacity crowd at the National Stadium.
Aware of the first-half failings, Igesund moved quickly at the halftime interval, replacing Dikgacoi with Lerato Chabangu. This change offered the home side an opportunity to get hold of the ball and claim control of the game. Anele Ngcongca started getting forward to support the in-form Thuso Phala and the two dovetailed well, taking control of the right hand side of the field.
However, the weakness of South African football reared its ugly head when having worked the ball into the attacking third of the pitch, the final pass was poor and nothing came of the opportunities.
Siphiwe Tshabalala and Majoro were substituted in the second half, with the biggest disappointment proving to be Tshabalala. The wide left-footed player has the ability to beat his opponents but unfortunately never goes past them regularly enough to create goal-scoring opportunities.
Looking ahead to Bafana’s second group game against Angola on Wednesday, in terms of personnel, I would opt for Dean Furman in a central midfield role. I believe this adjustment would enable our midfield to slow the game down and also allow us to play in one half, which suits our style of play.
I do not agree with the suggestion that the players froze in front of their home crowd – what a lot of rubbish! It’s always a huge advantage playing in front of your home crowd. Whether you ask the players of Kaizer Chiefs, Manchester United or Barcelona, all will answer in the affirmative.
The other two nations in Group A, Angola and Morocco, looked rather ordinary in their opening encounter, which also ended goalless. Having analysed the first round of games in this group, I feel that Gordon will get it right in Durban and qualify for the knock-out stages.
That said, I believe the side to beat in Group A is Angola. They are quick and will play a similar type of football to what Bafana do.
Whereas Morocco bring a very European style of football to the table. They look to counterattack and aim to create width and depth in order to get in behind defences.
Without making wholesale changes, I believe Gordon’s best starting XI would be Khune in goal, the same back four, a midfield comprising of Phala (right), Letsholonyane (centre), Furman (centre) and Oupa Manyisa (left), complimented with the best strike force of Mphela and Parker up front.
I believe that these alterations will give Bafana balance, cohesion, creativity and movement and ultimately the best opportunity of winning.
Go for it Gordon, go for it Bafana Bafana, the nation is behind you! You are only one result away from turning it around and propelling South African football to where it should be.