Phiri makes the most of his op­por­tu­nity

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - BONGINKOSI NDADANE Or­lando Sta­dium South Africa (1)1 Phiri 45 Su­dan (0)0

LE­BO­GANG Phiri made the most of the ab­sence of Keagan Dolly and Themba Zwane, in­spir­ing Bafana Bafana to their first win in the 2021 Africa Cup of Na­tions qual­i­fiers by show­ing his worth.

The France-based mid­fielder has been un­for­tu­nate to earn only a hand­ful of caps and to miss out of Af­con in Egypt ear­lier this year.

His tal­ent and qual­ity are un­doubted, but the play­ers who play ahead of him have more in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

Yes­ter­day he also showed that he isn’t a bad shout, skil­fully bam­boo­zling his way past Su­dan’s de­fence to help Bafana kick start their Af­con cam­paign.

Bafana coach Molefi Nt­seki started with an at­tack-minded team as the side looked to bounce back from their loss in their open­ing qual­i­fier to Ghana on Thurs­day.

Lebo Moth­iba led the at­tack, sup­ported by Percy Tau, Thu­lani Serero and Phiri. Nt­seki’s team should have taken an early lead after clever play from Phiri set up Kamo­h­elo Mokotjo. The Eng­land-based mid­fielder fluffed his op­por­tu­nity and the ball fell to Thapelo Morena who missed a sit­ter.

Moth­iba missed an even more glo­ri­ous chance as Bafana failed to make the most of their early dom­i­nance.

The hosts were all over Su­dan, who parked the bus and looked to catch South Africa on the counter. Bafana were pa­tient in their build-up, look­ing to pen­e­trate Su­dan with their slick in­ter­play but the Fal­cons of Je­di­ane re­fused to budge.

Bafana fi­nally took the lead when Phiri struck a thun­der­bolt that hit the roof of the net and a huge sigh of re­lief en­veloped Or­lando Sta­dium as

SA went into the break a goal ahead. That re­lief was fu­elled by the waste­ful na­ture of Bafana in front of goal. At half­time there should have been day­light be­tween Bafana and Su­dan who won their open­ing qual­i­fier against Sao Tome and Principe 4-0 on Wed­nes­day.

If all three teams – Ghana, Su­dan and Bafana – are to get max­i­mum points against the is­landers, then the clashes be­tween SA and Su­dan could de­cide who fin­ishes sec­ond in Group C and books a ticket to Cameroon .

The Black Stars, who are four-time African cham­pi­ons, are favourites to top the group. This makes it es­sen­tial for Bafana to not only beat Su­dan, but to also do so by a healthy mar­gin.

Yes­ter­day was an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove the team’s goal dif­fer­ence by putting an avalanche of goals past the vis­i­tors, but Bafana were not ruth­less enough to put their op­po­nents to the sword.

This is some­thing that the team will need to im­prove on if they are to go to Cameroon in 2021 and Qatar for the World Cup in 2022.

The Af­con qual­i­fiers will only re­sume in Au­gust next year. In March, Bafana will start their jour­ney to­wards Qatar in the World Cup qual­i­fiers.

MUZI NTOMBELA

LE­BO­GANG PHIRI cel­e­brates his goal against Su­dan with Thu­lani Hlatshwayo at Or­lando Sta­dium yes­ter­day. | Back­pagePix

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