CAPE TOWN, July 2 – Bafana Bafana are still in with a shot of qualifying for the knockout stages of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), but it all depends on the results of Tuesday’s final games in the remaining groups.
After conceding a late goal to lose 1-0 against Morocco at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Monday – the winner scored by Moubarak Boussoufa – the SA national football team finished Group D in third place on three points.
Morocco topped the group and Ivory Coast in second, with both qualifying for the next phase of the continental competition.
With the tournament this year extended to 24 participating teams, it will also be the first time that four of the best third-placed sides will advance to the next round.
As such, Bafana could still make it, if results on Tuesday go their way.
As it stands on the official Afcon third-placed log, Bafana are in third position. Today’s games will decide their fate: whether they continue in the event or board a plane to return home.
As it stands, the third-place qualification log is as follows: Guinea (4 points), Dr Congo (3), Bafana (3), Kenya (3), Benin (2) and Angola (2).
Today’s group games are: Angola v Mali, Mauritania v Tunisia, Benin v Cameroon and Guinea-Bissau v Ghana.
Looking back at Monday’s defeat to Morocco, though, it was again Bafana’s ultra-cautious approach which raised many questions.
While they were organised and defended stoutly, the team never really offered any threat in attack – and therein was the problem.
Bafana coach Stuart Baxter made three changes to the team that beat Namibia 1-0 last Friday, with Ronwen Williams returning to the number one jersey, while Kamohelo Mokotjo and Thulani Serero were restored to the starting team.
Ultimately, though, Bafana defended far too deep in the closing stages. It allowed Morocco’s Atlas Lions to launch attack after attack, and eventually, something had to give, hence the goal in the dying moments of the game.
But, with Bafana again showing no urgency or initiative from an attacking perspective, the mood back home in South Africa was rather sombre.
Football followers have been especially harsh on Baxter for his refusal to play current PSL Player of the Season Thembinkosi Lorch in any of the team’s Afcon games.
There is now a definite cloud of uncertainty around Baxter continuing as Bafana coach – and, whether the team makes it into the third-placed qualifying spot or not, the SA Football Association will have some decisions to make after the conclusion of the Afcon tournament.
– African News Agency