Cape Town – Bafana Bafana youthful upstarts find themselves in the last chance saloon ahead of this week's final World Cup Group G qualifiers and coach Hugo Broos warned "there is no way back" at Monday's press conference in Dobsonville.
No one would have foreseen that six months ago when Broos was appointed the national team's mentor that Bafana Bafana would have a realistic chance of reaching the final qualifying round after topping Group G with two rounds remaining.
Broos himself was surprised at how well things have gone, considering he started out the qualifying campaign with a group of mainly greenhorns. The team are undefeated after four rounds and have two outstanding Group G matches against Zimbabwe (Friday, at home) and Ghana (Sunday, away).
"We have two very important games, and we are now at the final (stages) of the qualifiers," said Broos.
"There is no way back. Either we qualify for the next qualifying round, or we are finished.
"If we win the next two rounds we are in the next (qualifying) round. It is simple to say it, but it is not so simple to do it.
"For us now, the most important thing is to win against Zimbabwe."
Broos said had some bad news on top of another dose of bad news, and he was forced to make a call-up earlier on Monday.
“I have some news about the team. As you know, (Sifiso) Hlanti is not with us because of the injury,” Broos told the media.
“I wish him (Hlanti) a very good and quick recovery.
"Secondly, we also have a problem with Yusuf Maart. He got a kick last week and played 90 minutes yesterday (for Sekhukhune) but he is not ready to play against Zimbabwe and go with us to Ghana.
“So, we had to replace him and brought in (SuperSport United's) Jesse Donn who is in Cape Town. He will be here (in Joburg) this evening and will play with us.”
The Cape Town-born Maart was one of the newbies that Broos called up to the national squad and after six appearances he has been impressive. His replacement, another Cape Town-born, Donn, an attacking midfielder, was initially named in the provisional squad for these qualifiers. He has been outstanding for SuperSport.
Broos was his usual forthright self when asked about the decision to move the Ethiopia - Ghana match from the inhospitable Bahir Dar Stadium to Johannesburg after the venue was found to be unfit to host an international fixture.
CAF gave Ethiopia the option of choosing a neutral venue, or Ghana would host the match. Ethiopia opted for Orlando Stadium, and the venue was approved by CAF.
Broos felt Ghana benefitted hugely by not having to play at the Bahir Dar Stadium, where the playing conditions were terrible when Bafana Bafana played there a month ago.
"This is not fair, what happened is really not fair," said Broos, who made no effort to hide his dismay, saying Orlando Stadium offered a world-class pitch.
"Two countries from our group already played in that stadium (SA and Zimbabwe). It was in a very bad location (several hours drive from the airport), a very bad stadium and a very bad pitch. We had to do it, and lucky for us, we did it (to win under those conditions).
"So, after we and Zimbabwe played there, suddenly Ghana can play their game in a paradise at Orlando. South Africa is a paradise compared to Ethiopia.
"Fair enough, they have to travel further, but it is a direct flight from Accra to Johannesburg. It is not fair, and I do not understand FIFA agreeing on these kinds of things.
"They first approve a stadium, and after two games, suddenly it is no longer approved."
Before the Orlando venue was confirmed, the Ghana FA wrote to CAF and FIFA to point out that it was wrong for a game to be played in a country that is in the same group, and in contention for the top spot.
Of all the Group G teams, Ethiopia will do the least travelling this weekend. After playing Ghana in Orlando, they will cross the border to play hosts Zimbabwe on Sunday.