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Molefi Ntseki’s Bafana Bafana programme turned on its head by Caf changes

Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki.
Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Bafana Bafana’s programme for 2020 has been turned on its head after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) decided to change the entire schedule of qualification for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and 2022 Fifa World Cup.

The World Cup qualifiers were scheduled to start in the March international window‚ with the draw for the group stages to take place on Tuesday‚ but will now only get underway in October.

That may work to new coach Molefi Ntseki’s advantage as he is only three games into his tenure and might welcome the extra seven months to prepare a squad he believes can qualify for Qatar.

Instead‚ the final four rounds of Nations Cup qualifiers for a place in Cameroon will take place before then‚ with those finals having been shifted to January-February next year.

Bafana started their campaign with a loss in Ghana before a home win over Sudan‚ and will now face home and away ties with pool minnows Sao Tome e Principe in the window between March 23 and 31.

Six points will be important but the second of those matches away at the islanders will be tough on what is a substandard artificial surface.

Bafana will then host Ghana between June 1 and 9 for their penultimate qualifier and will hope to go to Sudan between August 31 and September 8 with that tie as a dead rubber having already qualified as one of the top two teams in the pool.

That will wrap up the continental preliminaries some four months before the finals‚ but before nations can think of lifting that trophy‚ they will get the World Cup group qualifiers underway.

They will be played over a year‚ starting in October (5-13) and November (9-17)‚ before a double-header in March (22-30) 2021‚ by which time the pool should have taken shape.

The penultimate round will be staged on August 30-September 7‚ 2021‚ and the pool stages will conclude on October 4-12‚ 2021.

Should Bafana make the final round of knockout qualifiers‚ which will feature home and away legs‚ these will be played November 8-16‚ 2021.