Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Joel Santana is a happy man despite the shocking failure of Bafana Bafana to qualify for the MTN Africa Cup of Nations finals in Angola in 2010.

This will be the first time since winning the biennial tournament on home soil in 1996 that South Africa will not be participating.

Bafana Bafana's fate was sealed by Ikechukwu Uche in the 70th minute to give Nigeria a 1-0 win over the 2010 World Cup hosts in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. At a drama-filled post-match conference, Santana - the man who earns around R1,4 million a month - was clearly not worried about the team's failure to qualify.

Once more still using an interpreter, Santana's argument is that the "bigger picture for us is the 2010 World Cup".

The Africa Cup of Nations finals would have served as a great platform for Bafana Bafana to assess their readiness for the World Cup.

"Of course, the result was not good but today I'm very happy. I prefer to lose with a strong team than win with a cowardly team," said Santana.

"The team is much better, we are still experimenting for the World Cup. We are on track to come up with a competitive team for 2010.

"We dominated the game, both in defence and attack. The only problem for us was that we failed to convert our chances into goals.

"We had 16 shots and Nigeria four, one of them was a goal," said Santana, who Safa has faith in and made it clear was staying put as Bafana Bafana head coach. Raymond Hack, Safa's chief executive officer, said: "We missed too many scoring opportunities, you can't blame the coach."

The goal-shy Bafana Bafana, with Benni McCarthy serving as captain, have themselves to blame for the defeat and failure to qualify for Angola.

There was nothing super about Nigeria, minus key players Joseph Yobo, Obafemi Martins and John Mikel Obi, on Saturday. For them, coming here was a mere formality as the Super Eagles had already qualified after winning all five of their games.

Back to the drama at the post match briefing, a Cape Town-based journalist was evicted for calling Santana "dumb and stupid".

This was after Santana told journalists, in the presence of Hack, that he was happy with Bafana Bafana's performance. Also present at the briefing was McCarthy, who described the failure to go to Angola as "a massive disappointment".

"We are all disappointed but the team played well, I have never been so proud to put on a Bafana Bafana shirt. Only God knows how He made them (Nigeria) victorious.

"By 2010 this team will be ready," said McCarthy.