Sa­dio Mane has role in both goals... and Sene­gal book place at World Cup 2018

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MAZOLA MOLEFE

South Africa 0 Sene­gal (2) 2 WHAT if they’d won the two qual­i­fiers against Cape Verde two months ago?

It’s a ques­tion that will haunt Bafana Bafana coach Stu­art Bax­ter for the re­main­der of his ten­ure with the na­tional team as he threw in the towel in the hopes of reach­ing the World Cup in Rus­sia next year here last night.

A win in Praia on Septem­ber 1 and an­other one four days later against the same team in Dur­ban would have soft­ened the blow on this hurt­ful re­sult at home as hosts to Group D lead­ers Sene­gal, who are now guar­an­teed a place at next year’s global show­piece.

Bax­ter al­ready has crit­ics, and they will swell in num­ber fol­low­ing an un­wanted re­sult at the Pe­ter Mok­aba Sta­dium.

The next best thing is to try to qual­ify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Na­tions, but many will ques­tion whether it should be Bax­ter that leads that cam­paign.

The coach had man­aged to at least get the back­ing of some 41 500 fans at this venue prior to kick­off, with sup­port­ers flock­ing the tick­et­ing cen­tre to come and show their love for Bafana, who had to beat Sene­gal first in Lim­popo province and then again in Dakar on Tues­day to oc­cupy one of five spots for African teams at the World Cup.

But the game plan was quickly thrown out of the win­dow af­ter just 12 min­utes when Di­afra Sakho sneaked in be­hind the Bafana back four to squeeze the ball past goal­keeper Itume­leng Khune, at full stretch.

Sene­gal, who were ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive a year ago at this very sta­dium and lost 2-1 to Bafana un­der then coach Shakes Mashaba, were much more ag­gres­sive this time around and were clin­i­cal in front of goal, as well as res­o­lute in de­fence.

This was a re­play of the pre­vi­ous en­counter on South African soil be­tween the two sides af­ter Fifa ruled that Bafana’s win was null and void fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of match-fix­ing. Ref­eree Joseph Lamptey had al­ready been giv­ing a life­time ban from foot­ball and the fo­cus – not with­out con­tro­versy as Bax­ter’s em­ploy­ers tried to ap­peal the de­ci­sion – shifted to Novem­ber 10, 2017.

It will be re­mem­bered as the fate­ful night on which Bafana, for the sec­ond time with Bax­ter in charge, failed to qual­ify for a World Cup event, while his coun­ter­part Aliou Cisse has man­aged to lead his na­tive coun­try to their first ever tour­na­ment since 2002.

Cisse is a for­mer cap­tain of his na­tional team.

Bax­ter was at the helm of the SA na­tional team in 2005 when they came up short in their at­tempts to reach the 2006 World Cup in Ger­many. His sec­ond com­ing has been painful.

And when de­fender Tham­sanqa Mkhize helped the ball into his own net just af­ter 38 min­utes of play, it couldn’t have got­ten worse.

Bafana had some­how been able to find a spring in their step de­spite go­ing a goal down. They had been spurred on by the fact that there was still so much to play for even though they had been caught nap­ping when Sene­gal tal­is­man Sa­dio Mane elim­i­nated three de­fend­ers with one pass to set up Sakho for the opener.

For the rest of the first half, the vis­i­tors were like deer in the head­lights as they chased the Bafana shad­ows, but the South Africans failed to take ad­van­tage of this.

Le­bo­gang Manyama came the clos­est with a shot that hit the un­der­side of the cross­bar, but didn’t find its way into the net, bounc­ing back into play in­stead.

Mkhize’s own goal pre­ceded a sec­ond half to for­get, as more ques­tions were asked in an­other dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign that has led to hav­ing to wait for the 2022 World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tions, a year that co­in­cides with the SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s vi­sion to have en­sured Bafana are among the best team on the con­ti­nent. Such a long way to go… @su­per­journo

● Brazil for­ward Ney­mar con­verted one penalty and missed an­other five min­utes later in a com­fort­able 3- 1 friendly win over Ja­pan yes­ter­day.

Brazil’s 13th vic­tory in 16 games since Tite took charge as coach in June last year also fea­tured a thun­der­ing ef­fort by Marcelo and a close-range goal by Gabriel Je­sus at Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mau­roy.

It was the first time Brazil had been in­volved in a match fea­tur­ing ex­per­i­men­tal video re­play tech­nol­ogy (VAR) and the five-time world cham­pi­ons were quickly on the right end of a de­ci­sion.

Brazil mid­fielder Fer­nand­inho was held back by Maya Yoshida and, al­though play con­tin­ued, the ref­eree called for the video re­play as soon as the ball went out of play and pointed to the spot af­ter a short wait.

Ney­mar strode up, paused and waited for keeper Eiji Kawashima to dive right be­fore stroking his shot into the op­po­site cor­ner.

To­moaki Makino headed in from a cor­ner in the 63rd minute for Ja­pan. – Reuters

AG­O­NIS­ING GLANCE: Bafana Bafana goal­keeper Itume­leng Khune (wear­ing pro­tec­tive mask) looks on as the ball re­bounds off de­fender Tham­sanqa Mkhize, right, af­ter he had saved a shot from Sa­dio Mane of Sene­gal dur­ing last night’s World Cup qual­i­fier in Polok­wane.

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