Bafana must build on solid start

Bongokuhle Hlongwane celebrates his goal with teammates during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between South Africa and Ghana at FNB Stadium.
Bongokuhle Hlongwane celebrates his goal with teammates during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between South Africa and Ghana at FNB Stadium.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

A long and challenging road lies ahead for Bafana Bafana despite a promising start to their bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.

Beating Ghana at home and earning an away draw against Zimbabwe in their opening qualification matches are reason for optimism.

Those impressive results have left Bafana top of Group G and feeling buoyant about their future under new coach Hugo Broos.

Next up for Bafana are home and away games against Ethiopia, which could decide whether they join soccer’s biggest party in Qatar.

If Bafana can win these games they will give their hopes of topping the group a massive shot in the arm.

However, even a top finish in Group A will not guarantee Bafana a ticket to Qatar.

They will then face a penultimate playoff round of home and away matches to secure their right to compete at the global showpiece.

Brooos has been a breath of fresh air for SA’s ailing national team and his policy of selecting young players has paid early dividends.

The Belgian, who won the 2017 Nations Cup with a young Cameroon side, left out a number of senior performers for the opening qualifiers.

Bafana made an indifferent start with a 0-0 draw against Zimbabwe in Harare, but then beat Ghana with a vital 1-0 win three days layer in their second game.

Before the matches, Broos said  Bafana might get a win away against Zimbabwe then draw at home against Ghana.

The Bafana teams that faced Zimbabwe and Ghana ranked among the most adventurous selected by a Bafana head coach.

A cautious Broos has stressed that as he rebuilds and brings in young players, Bafana may not qualify for Qatar.

It should be remembered all Bafana’s Group A opponents have good pedigrees and qualified for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which SA failed to do.

The advantage of having new young players in the squad, means they are not burdened by Bafana’s litany of previous failures on the international stage.

October’s double-header against Ethiopia will be a good yardstick to measure whether Bafana have what it takes to get to Qatar.

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