Bafana have what it takes

JOHANNESBURG - The highlight of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations draw that took place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, was Group C which brought together Bafana Bafana, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

Needless to say soon after the draw, many critics admitted Group C was the Group of Death and anyone who comes of that pool unscathed would be odd favourite to go all the way.

Bafana finished the qualifying rounds which comprised defending champions Nigeria, Sudan and Congo undefeated, a feat that underlined their surprise resurgence.

The Shakes Mashaba-coached unit even defeated Ivory Coast with a second-string side in the Nelson Mandela Challenge to underscore that the 1996 African champions had truly arrived.

That said, still the Wednesday draw left even the most die-hards wondering if Bafana Bafana would survive the proverbial Group of Death.

Algeria are ranked number one the continent while Ghana and Senegal are number four and five respectively, making the January/February fiesta a really daunting task for the South Africans.

Yet, despite the imposing nature of the group, Mashaba is refusing to be intimidated, arguing that if Bafana want to send a statement that they have arrived and should be ranked among the big boys, this is the time to prove that.

“You can’t consider yourself a top team if you avoid the big boys. Our wish going into the draw was ‘Bring anyone on’ and we duly got our wish,” quipped Mashaba in a post-draw interview. The mild-mannered coach admitted it was a tough but negotiable group.

Taking over Bafana last August when the senior national team were out of sorts and not looking like a team which had a plan, Mashaba turned things around overnight.

His first assignment was a trip to Sudan where Bafana routed the home side 3-0 before matches against Nigeria and Congo underlined how the boys had turned things around.

It won’t be easy in Equatorial Guinea. Two of Bafana’s opponents, Algeria and Ghana, were at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Senegal has a powerful pedigree in African football.

But reputation is something that should be discarded by ambitious sportsmen. And one thing that Mashaba has thrived on is defying odds and somehow, history is in his favour this time around.

For years the Desert Foxes have not had it easy against Bafana Bafana and the two will lock horns in the tiny Central African country with South Africa very optimistic of a good outcome especially at this tournament.

The same applies with Ghana. The Black Stars have always found it difficult when they entertain Bafana Bafana in a competitive match. The Ghanaians might boast of big names, but that will count for nothing when 11 versus 11 men square against each other.

While Senegal have some really imposing figures, Mashaba is of the opinion that Bafana can run them down as the match progresses and then knock them down with a sucker punch.

Personally, having witnessed the awakening of a giant called Bafana Bafana that had slept for long; I predict big things from Mashaba and the boys.

The only thing needed is to have thorough preparations.

Can’t wait for Equatorial Guinea next January! It is a place to be for soccer fans.

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