Win eases pain – Fur­man

‘Qual­i­fy­ing for Af­con ‘ helps makes up for ‘ World Cup flop’

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER - SAPA

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.

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