Speculation mounts that today’s match against Egypt could be Mashaba’s last
Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba was remarkably calm in dealing with questions regarding his future yesterday as speculation grows that today’s Nelson Mandela Challenge match against Egypt in Orlando will be his last. Perhaps he has resigned himself to losing the job after a failed 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) campaign, in which the national team finished a disappointing third behind group M winners Cameroon and a Mauritanian team ranked 104th in the world.
Before the pre-match press conference with the coach in Milpark yesterday, the media were told Mashaba would only be answering questions relating to the Egypt match. But things did not go according to the script. Asked if he had spoken to Safa president Danny Jordaan or chief executive Dennis Mumble after the qualifying campaign ended with a dull 1-1 draw against 10-man Mauritania on Friday, Mashaba responded by challenging the hierarchy to tell him what the future holds.
He could be kept as a Safa employee in a different position as they search for a replacement who would be under pressure to hit the ground running with the World Cup qualifiers starting next month.
“I know nothing about that, until somebody comes and tells me that this is what’s happening. If there is something that somebody wants to tell me, then he has to come to me,” he said.
“Criticism is always there. You get criticised even when you are eating. People will tell you that you are eating too much, so we have learnt to live with that.”
Mashaba feels that qualifying for the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea, which was not on his list of mandates, raised a lot of expectation – and that he and the players could not live up to that expectation.
“When we took over, we qualified for Africa Cup of Nations. It was unexpected, but we were unaware from our side that we were raising pressure from people. Now everybody thought we were world beaters,” he said.
“We are playing one of the giants [Egypt today]. It’s not going to be an easy game. Our league has just started. Only two games have been played and that is why some of our players look a bit rusty.
“But we are looking forward to the game. We played against Mauritania and we have seen what to rectify,” Mashaba said.
He is likely to make changes when they face Egypt at 7pm.
Mamelodi Sundowns winger Keagan Dolly is available after missing the clash on Friday.
Meanwhile, if Bafana could not qualify as one of 16 teams to play at the 2017 Afcon, what chance do they have of securing one of the five 2018 World Cup spots available for African teams?
With just one goal at home and one victory in six matches, the Afcon qualifying campaign was a total disaster, although midfielders Dolly and Dean Furman have not lost hope.
The players, according to Dolly, are feeling bad because of all the pressure and criticism that Mashaba has been subjected to.
“Obviously, it make us feel bad. The coach and the technical staff believe in us, which is why they call us up. I don’t think they need to take the blame,” Dolly said.
“We need to take the blame because we are the ones not converting chances. We stand together as one team and we always support the coach. Hopefully, things will change.”
Furman has called for improvement at home when their World Cup qualifying campaign gets under way.
“The main feeling is that three points from our home matches is not good enough and that’s not going to help you qualify for major tournaments.
“That’s something we have got to put right. We need to use our home advantage,” he said.
“I think the overriding factor is that we were playing catch up from the start. We drew at home to Gambia and then we lost to Mauritania. From then on it was a big ask to go and qualify. So it’s important we get off to a good start in our group. And our finishing in open play can be better.”