How Bafana Bafana transformed from zeros to nation's pride
In the end, Bafana Bafana needed to avoid defeat in the last game against Libya to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Though it was a difficult campaign, there are a lot of positives to pick up on.
Tiyani wa ka Mabasa reports on the five key points that saw Bafana get over the line to join 23 other countries for the tournament that will be hosted by Egypt in June.
Against expectations, Bafana beat Nigeria in their own backyard in Uyo, which set the tone that SA were in it to qualify. There were struggles along the way, notably the goalless draws against Libya at home and Seychelles away, but the good start eased the pressure on the group and when they stumbled, it wasn't a defeat but a draw.
Bafana kept four clean sheets and conceded just two goals in six outings, which were against a strong Nigeria side in the 1-1 draw at FNB Stadium in November and in the 2-1 win over Libya in Tunisia over the weekend. From the 12 groups, Bafana's goal difference of +9 is the third best, only behind Egypt (+11) and Senegal (+10).
Bafana's 11 goals in six matches is almost two goals per match, which is not a bad return, though six goals came in one match against Seychelles.
No away defeat
Bafana didn't lose a single match in the group, but what was key was staying undefeated on the road with wins against Nigeria (2-0) and Libya (2-1). The draw against Seychelles threatened to ruin things for Stuart Baxter's boys, but the seven points away were more than the ones attained at home, which were five. Usually, teams are happy to draw away and try to win at home, but Bafana's strong showing on their travels shouldn't be understated.
Good attitude from players
Whenever the players were criticised for poor performance, they responded in the next match with a good performance. For instance, after disappointing the nation in the goalless draw against Libya, they hammered Seychelles 6-0 in their next match. When they failed against Seychelles away (0-0), they came home and held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw. This was a good performance considering the Super Eagles had just come off two big wins against Libya, which Nigeria won 4-0 and 3-2 at home and away respectively.
Coping with injuries
Before the Nigeria clash (1-1), Baxter had to contend with a lot of injuries to key players. Bongani Zungu, Keagan Dolly, Dean Furman, Sibusiso
Vilakazi and Kamohelo Mokotjo missed that clash due to injuries and yet Bafana managed a draw.
When they played Libya in Durban (0-0), striker Lebo Mothiba was forced out, also because of an injury.
In the 2-1 win over Libya, goalkeeper Darren Keet had to step in, as Itumeleng Khune is still sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Team P W D L Gf Ga Pts
1 Nigeria 6 4 1 1 14 6 13
2 South Africa 6 3 3 0 11 2 12
3 Libya 6 2 1 3 16 11 7
4 Seychelles 6 0 1 5 3 25 1