Bafana Bafana saw a sad departure out of the African Cup of Nations last night following their 2-1 defeat at the hands of Ghana, but with so much positivity and confidence surrounding Shakes Mashaba’s men going into the tournament, one has to ask: what went wrong in Equatorial Guinea?
It was a bizarre turn of events at the competition, as South Africa went from dark-horse hopefuls to cannon fodder in three short matches. Don’t get me wrong, the team performed really well; in a matter of fact, they were always the first to score in all of their defeats to Algeria, Senegal and Ghana, but somehow Mashaba’s men seemed to always concede all their goals in the last 30 minutes of the matches. A tactical problem perhaps?
It’s clear that Bafana’s Achilles heel is not having the ball. Some teams learn to thrive on applying pressure on their opponents, even without possession, and this is what Bafana needs to embrace.
The problem seems to be that there are more questions than answers for South Africa’s national side, but there’s no denying that the current squad has the ability to score, and to great effect. Bafana even had multiple opportunities in every single encounter during the tournament to find the back of the net more times than one a game, but somehow never managed to finish off those chances. But whether they’re scoring or not, the aggressive attacking attitude perpetuated by the team in the opening half of all their games showed a determination that hasn’t been seen in a while, and furthermore, managed to keep their opponents, and worthy ones at that, scoreless in the opening stages of the game.
Maybe Mashaba’s substitutions and complacency in the later parts of the game is leading to South Africa’s downfall. Understandably, he is a new coach to the side and the immediate team hasn’t been together for all too long, but maybe the offensive defence strategy implemented in the dawns of each game is South Africa’s answer to becoming a potent threat in African and world football. We don’t want to fall into the clichés of saying “South African football is still developing”, because fans, critics and players alike know that the national side has a lot more to offer.
The support, talent and structures are in place; no it’s time for the mental toughness to start kicking in for Mashaba and Bafana Bafana.