Bafana need four points in their next two to progress to the play-offs of World Cup qualifiers
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Johannesburg – It’s now or never for Bafana Bafana. The South African national team will need at least four points from their two matches against Zimbabwe and Ghana in the World Cup qualifiers next week in order to progress to the play-off round next year.
Bafana have enjoyed an impressive run in the group stage thus far. They are at the summit of the standings in Group G with 10 points – thanks to a double over Ethiopia, solitary win over Ghana and a draw with Zimbabwe away from home.
But they’ll know that they are not home and dry – just yet – especially with the Black Stars breathing down their neck. Ghana are second on nine points. They’ll need to go all out in their last two matches and hope that Bafana slips as well.
Bafana, though, do not seem to be overwhelmed by the pressure at hand. But they know it will be tricky to finish top and progress to the next round of the qualifiers where they’ll be two matches away from qualifying for the global showpiece.
But, perhaps, first and foremost, the praise should go to coach Hugo Broos. The Belgian-born coach has shut up his naysayers for the time being. He’s done that remarkably, sticking with the in-form players - and producing results too.
It’s worth mentioning that these are no ordinary players. It’s a diverse squad that has been selected from almost all the 16 teams in the top-flight – as Broos wants players that will give their all for the national team in his five-year stint.
Prior to him accepting the job, albeit not being the initially preferred candidate, Broos made it clear that he wants to rebuild the team. That’s why he asked for patience – as he wanted to get to know the players on-and-off the pitch as well.
Thus far, he’s laid an incredible foundation as his team has responded to his game-plan. Bafana are not playing the prettiest of football but they are able to do the hard yards: get the ball into the final third, create opportunities and score.
Kudos should also go to skipper and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams who's led from the front. Albeit the responsibility of being one of the senior players, Williams has had stellar performances – conceding once so far after making crucial saves.
But as much as he might have kept the backdoor shut, Bafana have to make sure that they continue banging in the goals. That won’t come easy, given the fact that Zimbabwe and Ghana are two teams that know the South Africans very well.
Most of the players in the Zimbabwean national team are either playing in the local top-flight, have played before or are aspiring to in the future. Ghana have beaten Bafana at home before. That was recently in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The availability of Keagan Dolly and Percy Tau up front could prove to be the key that Broos needs in order to unlock the defence of the two nations. The duo are on form, enjoying the new lease of life at Kaizer Chiefs and Al Ahly respectively.