Tide turning against Mashaba
His popular moniker is “Shakes” – earned during his toughtackling defending days – but sometimes you do want to literally shake Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim Mashaba.
Mashaba gave the impression at the post-match press conference for Bafana’s 1-0 Nelson Mandela Challenge victory against Egypt on Tuesday night of being oblivious to the tide of opinion – public‚ and reportedly in the corridors of Safa – turning against him.
If Mashaba had a good PR manager‚ he would have advised the coach to admit to the mistakes made in Bafana’s failed 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign that ended with a whimper with Friday’s 1-1 draw against Mauritania in Nelspruit.
And to say there was a plan to rectify those errors for the World Cup 2018 qualifiers that start next month.
This is what the South African public needs to hear as Bafana sit at yet another crossroads‚ with Safa apparently in two minds on whether to give Mashaba a chance to replicate his 2015 Afcon qualifying success for Russia 2018‚ or go another route.
Instead‚ Mashaba‚ confronted with the possibility that his future as Bafana coach might be in question‚ was defensive‚ claimed there was no problem‚ and pointed again to the supposed scoring problem – one that was somehow overcome reaching Afcon 2015.
The coach was asked what he had learnt from the games against Mauritania and Egypt‚ given they served as preparation for the Russia 2018 qualifiers.
“I don’t want to keep repeating this thing of failing to score because one of the biggest journalists says I have been talking about this thing since I was employed‚” Mashaba replied.
“Mauritania – we created more chances than them, but we couldn’t score. We missed a penalty.
“And missing penalties does not just happen with Bafana.
One of the world stars – Roberto Baggio – he hit the birds. Not even near the goal.
“And the second thing we learnt is: have a big heart. We were all over Mauritania, but they never gave up.
“Against Egypt‚ I told you we were playing against one of the highly tactical sides [in Africa]. You saw it.
“Fortunately we scored from a cross – it shows something is happening. But we lack shooting. Those are the things we learnt in these two games.”
The official stats for the Mauritania game were that there were six shots on goal‚ three from either side.
Mashaba appears to continue to miss the point that it was his admitted refusal to research the opposition that has been pointed to as the biggest reason Bafana failed to reach Gabon 2017.
“In all the games that we played – indicate one‚ tell me which game‚ except the one in Mauritania‚ that we played badly in?” he questioned.
“We are happy to say that we need to work on something. But we are happy with the boys’ performance – there is just nothing we need to worry about, except scoring goals.
“We qualified for the 2015 Nations Cup when we were only two months old in the team.
“We raised false hopes and people thought we had arrived.
“Not having qualified [for 2017] was not our wish. Unfortunately it didn’t go well. With time we will make sure we qualify,” he said.
Mashaba was pleased by the performance against Egypt.
“What a great performance again from our players.
“The good thing is we scored an early goal‚ and consolidated for the entire 90 minutes.
“A good thing is we have roped in young players. And all six to seven played very well.
“But there are those few things that we need to work on – the question of when we lose the ball. It becomes a problem – we find ourselves wanting.
“But most unfortunately‚ again‚ those are things not to be addressed in the national team. Those things need to be addressed at club level.”
Should Mashaba be called to a meeting with Safa this week‚ he will need a far more convincing argument.
At the very least‚ to admit something has gone wrong and needs to be put right.
He might address the apparent lack of faith – by their last two performances on the field – his players seem now to have in their technical team.
For if he’s not convincing‚ Safa might have cause to believe this is not the man to take Bafana through a winnable World Cup qualifying group.