Bafana Bafana demonstrated enough accuracy and vision in the midfield and ball control near the 18-yard area in their 2-0 win against Lesotho to strengthen the self-belief of their fans that they will be able to deliver in a tough Soccer World Cup qualifier against the Central African Republic (CAR) on Saturday.
Tlou Segolela’s brace lifted Bafana Bafana to a 2-0 victory over Lesotho in a friendly match at the National Stadium in Maseru, Lesotho on Sunday.
Segolela’s first goal was simple enough, but his second required that he turn away from the defender and find the back of the net. He did both splendidly to extend South Africa’s lead.
A blustery wind, the artificial surface and a determined first-half effort by Lesotho made life difficult for Bafana Bafana.
Coach Gordon Igesund was casting his net wide, almost as Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer did by selecting 34 players for the rugby test series in June.
Igesund fielded a different side with one eye on the 2014 World Cup qualifiers against the CAR and Ethiopia, yet still managed to beat Lesotho in convincing fashion.
South Africa did their homework on Lesotho’s strengths and weaknesses, and splendidly closed down the space of the hosts’ midfield.
What advances has the national team made since the start of the Igesund era?
They have certainly improved their distribution skills and looked in a different league to the team who lost their compass with some wayward passing in the match against the CAR in Cape Town in March 2013.
The South African team enjoyed the major share of possession and strung together many accurate passes – an indication that Igesund has improved the ability by the midfield to find the wings and strikers on a more regular basis.
Yet, Igesund is a hard man to please, and he would have been fuming about the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
Bernard Parker had a chance in the 10th minute when he met a Siphiwe Tshabalala cross, but he lacked firepower and it was gathered by Kholuoe Phasumane.
Katlego Mashego had a very goal-able opportunity when Tshabalala found him, but he was too slow to gather and strike, and inched it wide of the right-hand post. That should have been a goal.
Parker was played through in the 67th minute, but could not convert it.
There were several other chances in the first and second half which were not converted.
The visitors dominated in the opening exchanges, but Bafana Bafana weathered the storm and found their rhythm in the second half.
Lesotho was used to the artificial surface, but South Africa was not – yet the latter adapted very well to the blistering conditions and the surface to dominate territory and possession.
South Africa are set to make a couple of changes to their starting 11.
One would be the return of their long-term captain, Itumeleng Khune, in the place of Wayne Sandilands in the last line of defence.
Thabo Nhethe wore the captain’s armband against Lesotho.
The Bafana Bafana midfield could see some interesting changes against the CAR, with May Mahlangu possibly returning to bring some urgency to proceedings.
Tshabalala had a splendid match against Lesotho, and it seemed his passing has improved significantly since the African Cup of Nations in January.
Bafana Bafana have still not addressed the concerns about their one-on-one defending.
Lesotho sent a warning to Bafana late in the second half when substitute Katlego Moleko fired a shot from range which came back off the crossbar, reported www.kickoff.com.
The industriousness by the South African defenders, though, was encouraging, with Ricardo Nunes starting off with a superb run on the left flank; his fairly accurate cross almost found the head of Parker.
What can South Africa expect from the CAR on Saturday?
First of all, they may be faced with a very hostile reception and, secondly, a deliberate attempt by the CAR coach to unsettle Bafana Bafana in the lead-up to the game.
in recent times, Bafana Bafana have not been convincing away from home, and Igesund would be focusing on a very strong first-half performance and an early lead to settle the nerves.
Can South Africa improve on their solid performance against Lesotho?
Surely, there were so many clear or half chances, and ruthless and clinical finishing would be required to rattle the CAR.
In soccer, one needs attacking midfielders, excellent solo runs by probing wings, and pinpoint finishing to secure wins, particularly in high-class World Cup-qualifying matches such as these.
South Africa’s finishing from close range has not been up to standard over the past 18 months, and Katlego Mphela has faced the wrath of the Bafana Bafana crowd on several occasions as he and some other strikers failed to convert half chances or clear goal-scoring opportunities.
South Africa will field several players who possess the X-factor: attackers who can wrong-foot opponents with deft footwork and swerves.
Bafana Bafana lack poise and calmness in the moment critique – that grace under fire to deliver the knockout blow.
If they can do it against the CAR on Saturday, it will strengthen their position and remove the lingering doubts about their psychological abilities away from home.