Win eases pain – Furman
‘Qualifying for Afcon ‘ helps makes up for ‘ World Cup flop’
Bafana Bafana captain Dean Furman says their qualification for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations goes a long way to healing the wounds of failing to book a place at the Fifa World Cup in Brazil.
“I remember the feeling I had when we didn’t qualify for the World Cup play-offs in this same stadium last year,” Furman said after South Africa booked their spot at next year’s Cup of Nations with a game to spare.
Thulani Serero and Tokelo Rantie scored either side of halftime against Sudan at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday, as the country qualified for a major tournament for the first time since Afcon in 2008.
Fourteen months ago, at the very same venue, Furman scored on the stroke of half-time to help South Africa to a convincing 4-1 victory over Botswana in South Africa’s final 2014 World Cup qualifier.
But despite the three-goal margin, Furman and the rest of the team failed to make it through to the play-offs, where a win over Nigeria would have guaranteed them a spot at the global spectacle in South America.
According to the former Chelsea youth and Glasgow Rangers midfielder, the difference in this year’s Afcon qualification campaign was the start.
“The group was in our hands. We were playing catch-up from the first two games in the World Cup qualification. We were behind Ethiopia from the first two games, whereas this (Afcon) group, we were leading the group from the first minute.
“We had a very good start to the group and since then we’ve just improved and just got the victories that kept us above the other teams.”
South Africa drew their opening two World Cup qualifiers, as opposed to a stunning 3-0 win over Sudan and a goalless draw with Nigeria in this year’s opening Afcon qualifiers, which set the country up for a strong finish to a group they are guaranteed to win with a game in hand.
Bafana finished their World Cup qualifier group with 11 points after six games. This time round, South Africa already have 11 points after five games. When the country qualified for Afcon in 2008, they also finished with 11 points.
Wearing the captain’s armband for the first time in his career, Furman said he was delighted, but quickly deflected attention back to his teammates who he says deserve just as much praise for their roles in the triumph.
“I’d have to say, on this performance, we saw leaders all over. We saw a leader in goal, who came in, we saw leaders at the back who were putting their head on the line and blocking shots.
“We saw leaders in the midfield who were willing to take the ball and go and take on their opponents and we saw leaders upfront who were willing to put themselves in front of goal and finish the job off for us. Just because I had the armband, yes it was a great honour for me, but what we showed today is that we are a team of leaders and that’s great for us going forward.”
Having walked along Durban’s beachfront last Tuesday morning, as well as through the Gateway shopping centre on Friday to meet and mingle with locals, Furman thanked the coastal city for its hospitality as more than 32000 supporters packed the 2010 World Cup arena in cold and cloudy conditions against Sudan.
“As a team, the support we had on the training pitch, in the hotel, on the beachfront, at the shopping centre and finally in the stadium, was just incredible and we’re so happy we could give the win to the people.”
SA now take on the Super Eagles in the newly-built Akwa Ibom International Stadium in Nigeria on Wednesday.
ON THE BALL: Dean Furman made a fine start as captain of South Africa by leading the team to victory over Sudan at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday but deflected praise back to his teammates for their roles in the victory.