Bafana and the nation got car­ried away with the hype

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

AS we sift through the wreck­age of a World Cup de­feat to Uruguay, why are we look­ing to put the blame on some­one (the ref­eree in Car­los Al­berto Par­reira’s case) or some­thing (the Jab­u­lani ball)?

Bafana Bafana did won­drously well to ride the wave of emo­tion in the open­ing game against Mex­ico, but against Uruguay we all saw the Fifa world rank­ings don’t lie.

It’s un­der­stand­able that so many got car­ried away with the hype. The draw against Mex­ico cre­ated false hopes among the ex­perts and a be­lief that South Africa would reach the sec­ond round. But, all three Group A op­po­nents op­er­ate in a higher strato­sphere and it’s not with any de­gree of hind­sight or glee that we should be re­minded Bafana were al­ways ex­pected to prop up the pool.

Two games, against op­po­nents ranked in the world’s top 20, have seen Bafana score one goal (a fab­u­lous strike from Siphiwe Tsha­bal­ala) and con­cede four.

France will prob­a­bly nudge up that tally next Tues­day, but South Africa have not been dis­graced. Which is why the at­ti­tude of hun­dreds of fans leav­ing be­fore the end of the game at Lof­tus Vers­feld the other night stinks, and smacks of gross naivety. Yet, that can also be at­trib­uted to ridicu­lously lofty pre-tour­na­ment pre­dic­tions.

“We in South Africa will not al­low the tro­phy to leave the coun­try again,” Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma said shortly be­fore last week’s kick off, pre­dict­ing a tri­umph over Brazil in the fi­nal. He was not jok­ing. The ANC Youth League even re­leased a state­ment say­ing, “Bafana have an un­ques­tion­able ca­pac­ity to go up to the last stage of the World Cup,” while par­lia­men­tary sports fig­ure­head Bu­tana Kom­phela or­dered the team “to win the World Cup… not just get to the fi­nal”.

As a coun­try, South Africa can puff out their chest and stand proud. The play­ers have punched above their weight, and some might even say have done more than ex­pected of a team ranked 83rd in the world, but off the field is where the real im­pres­sion has been made. Sure, the newly-laid pitches have cre­ated prob­lems (high ball bounce and skiddy sur­faces) but gen­eral so­ci­ety has em­braced the event and will con­tinue to do so once Bafana are elim­i­nated and the tour­na­ment gets deep into the knock­out stages.

From a foot­balling per­spec­tive, the biggest dis­ap­point­ment has been Steven Pien­aar. South Africa’s best player sim­ply hasn’t de­liv­ered and if Bafana Bafana were to have any chance of shock­ing the es­tab­lish­ment, they’d have needed their lit­tle mid­field mae­stro to pull the strings.

Yet, in both matches played thus far, Pien­aar has been sub­sti­tuted, with cramp (against Mex­ico) and fa­tigue (against Uruguay) cited. The Ever­ton player of the sea­son ad­mit­ted af­ter Mex­ico that his “legs were a lit­tle tired. But… my mind and heart are be­hind Bafana, and I will fight hard. I aim to get more in­volved when we play Uruguay”. He didn’t.

It’s been ar­gued that Pien­aar is tired af­ter play­ing 30 matches for Ever­ton dur­ing the past sea­son, but that has to be put into per­spec­tive against oth­ers at this World Cup. Eng­land’s John Terry, Frank Lam­pard and Wayne Rooney played 37, 36 and 32 League matches, re­spec­tively, while France’s Pa­trice Evra and Nicolas Anelka played 38 and 33 games, re­spec­tively And they are key fig­ures in their coun­try’s cam­paigns.

The game against France will, in all like­li­hood, be South Africa’s last un­der Par­reira and now some­one else must be tasked with build­ing on the plat­form.

Pitso Mosi­mane looks to be that per­son, but when he does be­come na­tional coach it must be with re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions – and ev­ery­one, from the govern­ment, to fans, to me­dia, must give him an ex­tended chance to build a team ca­pa­ble of qual­i­fy­ing for 2014.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.