Win over Ethiopia will pave way to Brazil
The class of 1976 will remain etched in South Africa’s history books for defying all odds and shaping the future of their generation.
Today, 37 years down the line, Gordon Igesund’s Bafana Bafana charges have an opportunity to script their own piece of history.
Defeating Ethiopia in one of the country’s most important games ever will clear the way to the Fifa World Cup in Brazil next year.
There might have been other important matches for Bafana, but for this generation, this afternoon’s game is the one.
This has been billed a winner-takes-all encounter as defeat for either side will dent their hopes of advancing to the next qualification phase.
Bafana need a victory as a defeat will leave Ethiopia with an unassailable five points lead, which will render Bafana’s last game against Botswana academic.
Botswana and the Central African Republic will not progress from Group A.
Although a draw will still give Bafana a chance going into the September encounter with the Zebras, it will require Bafana to beat Botswana and hope Ethiopia lose to the Central African Republic.
But this is the situation they would not want to be in as their fate would no longer be in their hands.
Igesund has always maintained that they wanted to be in control of the group, meaning they would go for an outright win in Addis Ababa.
The Walya Antelopes have already proved during the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) that they are a formidable side and can pass the ball well, and playing in front of their supporters would be an added motivation.
Their key player Saladin Said will have to be policed throughout as he is a match-winner – evidence of which was when he scored against Botswana last weekend.
Although under Igesund, Bafana have shown improvement, this afternoon’s results could decide the coach’s future.
Defeat would mean Igesund would have failed in his mandate of taking the team to Brazil.
Igesund is already skating on thin ice after failing his first hurdle of reaching the Afcon semifinals. Bafana were knocked out in the quarterfinals.
This afternoon, Bafana will not only be against the expected capacity crowd at the National Stadium, but playing at an altitude of 2 400m plus the condition of the pitch will be a huge challenge.
Bafana’s confidence is high after their morale-boosting 3-0 victory over the Central African Republic in Cameroon last weekend.
Igesund hinted he would go for an attacking line-up. If Bafana were to be triumphant in Addis Ababa this afternoon, the likes of Siphiwe Tshabalala and Dean Furman would have to come to the party.
Captain Itumeleng Khune said he aimed to keep a clean sheet and this would require his rearguard of Thabo Nthethe and Erick Mathoho to be alert.
Bafana go into this game having scored seven goals in their last three matches.
But Ethiopia boast a good home record as they have not lost in Addis Ababa since May 28 2011, when Sudan ousted them 2-1. They are undefeated in their own back yard in 11 games since then.
A victory will go a long way in wiping off the events of 37 years ago and the onus is on the class of 2013 to make their own history.
Win: Bafana Bafana would top the group and be ahead of Ethiopia by a point. Also, a win over Botswana on September 6 would secure the team qualification for the final round of qualifications.
Draw: The status quo would remain as Ethiopia would still be ahead on two points. This means, in the final round of matches on September 6, Bafana would have to beat Botswana and hope Ethiopia draw or lose to Central African Republic.
Deafeat: It would be all over for Bafana Bafana as Ethiopia would be five points clear and confirmed Group A winners.
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