|Oh Gord! Igesund promised to attack but went with a loan striker|
THERE will not be many bleaker nights for South African football. Defeat against Nigeria in Cape Town on Sunday night was not just disappointing. It was embarrassing.
Before the Group A finale, national head coach Gordon Igesund went to great lengths to tell us what a positive chap he is. Anybody with any knowledge of the man’s previous record would have pricked an ear at these brave words.
Boom! "“Playing for a draw is a dangerous thing for any team to do. You have to go out and play to win.”
Pow! “My philosophy has always been to play to win. But when you start thinking about trying to play for a draw then you are doing the wrong thing and you end up making incorrect decisions.”
Crash! “I cannot compromise my principles which are to win every match – if the other team scores three then you score four. It has worked for me in the past so there is no way I will play defensively to get a result. I believe we are good enough to win the game the way we want to.”
So what did Mr Win-or-bust do before a clash against the jolly green giants which required just a point to ensure qualification from Group A? He picks FIVE midfielders and goes with Bernard Parker up front on his own. Against a side South Africa have NEVER beaten, hadn’t scored against since 2004. Disastrous.
Right from the outset, Igesund had opted to go for the draw. His selection shouted that aloud. And to compound matters, with regular goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune out with an ankle injury, he made the fragile Bloemfontein Celtic centre-back Thabo Nthethe, 29, his captain and dropped impressive young AmaTuks defender Buhle Mkhwanazi, 23, for Kaizer Chiefs Tefu Mashamaite.
It should have been Mkhwanazi and MashaMIGHTY, as we soon found out. And why throw in Langerman for a game of this stature?
Like watching a horror show, everything Igesund had warned us about happened; Nigeria went 2-0 up, a defensive Bafana were forced to throw on the second striker Katlego Mashego in the first half, and all was lost.
Ejike Uzoenyi scored twice and hit the crossbar with a fizzer as he sought the first hat-trick of the CHAN 2014 tounament, Ifeanyi Ede scored the other. And at 3-0, with Mali back on level terms after a surprise early goal from pointless Mozambique in the other Group A clash, South Africa were gone. Another hosted tournament, another disaster.
Only then did Bafana begin to play, with Bernard Parker scoring his 22nd international goal from the spot. His four-goal haul in three games looks impressive, but in truth three of those were penalties.
And there’s the rub. In truth, South Africa needed a dodgy penalty to get back in the game in their opening 3-1 win against Mozambique. And they had a stonewall penalty for Mali NOT given against them before ANOTHER controversial penalty gave them an undeserved point in game two.
Ultimately, footballing justice prevailed. The best two sides in the group – young, athletic squads from Nigeria and Mali – triumphed over South Africa’s jaded bunch of old professionals promised R80 000 a win plus a further bonus from Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula if they actually won the tournament.
We can debate long and hard about who is to blame for Sunday’s nightmare. Should Orlando Pirates – crushed 2-1 by SuperSport United on Saturday – have made their African Champions League finalists available?
Did the row over player availability (led by Kaizer Chiefs but quietly supported by Bidvest Wits and others) cause pre-tournament problems?
Should Gordon have opted for youngsters after Amajita’s rousing COSAFA Under20 triumph in Lesotho last month?
Will Itumeleng Khune’s ankle, not strong enough for Nigeria, be okay for Kaizer Chiefs top-of-the-table clash against Mamelodi Sundowns on Thursday?
Ah, forget all that. None of it mattered on Sunday. The problem was Igesund. He chopped and changed without reason, without explanation. Moon, Vilakazi, Mokeke, Mkhwanazi and Manqele were in and out, old favourites like Tshabalala, Nthethe and Chabangu were always favoured.
Chabangu and Tshabalala appear unable to play themselves out of contention. And Igesund didn’t even explain his questionable selection after the game, insisting: “We were out-muscled. Nigeria are stronger than us. I’m very disappointed. But it was not to be. It wasn’t our day.”
I think we’ve heard that before, Gordon. Have we really moved forward since that opening game in Brazil? Have we got rid of the habitual losers who have inhabited the green shirt – soon to be sponsored by Nike – for so long?
No. The new broom has not swept. Development is forgotten. Our junior squads are still chaotic. You don't have agreements with PSL coaches, you bark at them. Players are picked for commercial reasons. Our squad continues to head towards an average age of 30 with alarming speed. It’s not good enough. Even with all those excuses. Simply not good enough. In Gord, I'm afraid, I no longer trust.
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