Bafana singing same old tune

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MATSHELANE MAMABOLO

GRANTED FOOT­BALL is a pretty un­pre­dictable sport. And at in­ter­na­tional level, in par­tic­u­lar, noth­ing can be taken for granted.

But when a team en­joys a 2-0 first leg lead against an out­fit they have never lost to in open play – they’ve lost twice in penalty shoot-outs – you’d ex­pect some bravado talk from their play­ers, right?

It would make for good quotes and a great read of course, a break away from the nor­mal dreary and some­what re­hearsed lines soc­cer play­ers gen­er­ally treat us to.

Imag­ine a player telling the gath­ered me­dia that “the match is just a for­mal­ity, a no-con­test re­ally be­cause we are just bet­ter than them. You all saw it in the first leg, and even his­tory backs us up.”

Riv­et­ing stuff ! Well, keep on imag­in­ing. For Bafana Bafana were not about to go off the beaten track.

And so, as they an­tic­i­pated what should es­sen­tially amount to yet another ‘prac­tice ses­sion’ against Botswana, the talk was the clichéd stuff.

It started im­me­di­ately af­ter the 2-0 win in Fran­cis­town last week­end, with debu­tant scorer Ryan Moon say­ing “the sec­ond leg is go­ing to be just as dif­fi­cult as the first leg was”.

The young Kaizer Chiefs player stuck to the script: “With in­ter­na­tional matches, any­thing can hap­pen.”

Of course any­thing can hap­pen, and in this par­tic­u­lar tie the ‘any­thing’ should surely be a Bafana vic­tory. This, af­ter all, is op­po­si­tion South Africa have beaten nine times in 12 meet­ings, with one draw and two shoot-out losses.

But Bafana are go­ing to pre­tend the first leg didn’t hap­pen.

“We just have to go out there know­ing that the score­line is now 0-0,” Moon con­tin­ued. “We re­ally need to win our game in or­der for us to go through.”

The truth though is even a 1-0 de­feat will still see Bafana pro­gress­ing to the next stage.

Fair enough, the men­tal­ity es­poused by Moon is so that the play­ers can treat the match with more se­ri­ous­ness and not as­sume they have al­ready won.

Another star of the first leg, Te­boho Mokoena, left his team­mates with a sim­i­lar mes­sage. “Yes, the lead is an ad­van­tage but doesn’t mean much. If we were able to score two goals away, then cer­tainly it means they can do the same,” he rea­soned.

Wouldn’t a more con­fi­dent out­look rather be to say: ‘If we can score two in their own back­yard, we should be able to put four past them when they come to visit”?

In­stead, Mokoena sung from the same sheet as Moon, say­ing: “We have to work hard and en­sure we win this game so as to pro­ceed to the next round.”

And how grand it would be to hear some­thing un­pre­dictable from our play­ers for once.

Don’t hold your breath.

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