Phiri makes the most of his opportunity
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.
LEBOGANG PHIRI celebrates his goal against Sudan with Thulani Hlatshwayo at Orlando Stadium yesterday. | BackpagePix