Bafana Bafana AFCON profile
With their 3-0 win over Mali in their final pre-AFCON warm-up match, Bafana Bafana stretched their unbeaten run under new coach Ephrahim Shakes Mashaba to ten matches. This is truly a team transformed. The turnaround has been astonishing to say the least! To think that this is the same team that couldn’t beat Ethiopia just 18 months ago. No disrespect to the Wayla Antelopes but that 2-1 loss in Addis Ababa after Bernard Parker’s cracking own goal effectively ended Bafana’s hopes of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is truly one of the lowest moments in the history of South African sport. Add to that the shameful 5-0 home loss to Brazil in March and one begins to understand the magnitude of the team’s recent improvement.
But even with this remarkable transformation it would take a brave man to bet on South Africa to win the Africa Cup of Nations. The last time that the team even qualified for the continental showpiece was in 2008 and the last time the team progressed past the tournament’s group stages was in 2002. And in Equatorial Guinea, the task of moving past the group stages will be even tougher because Mashaba’s men have been pooled in the group of death alongside Africa’s top-ranked side in Algeria, 2010 World Cup quarterfinalists Ghana and the dangerous and free-scoring Senegalese.
Mashaba though remains supremely confident, saying those teams are also afraid of Bafana. Andy why shouldn’t they be? Striker Tokelo Rantie, who scored 4 goals during the qualifiers, has harassed defenses. Andile Jali and Dean Furman have been superb in the middle of the park, with the former shutting out Nigeria star John Obi Mikel during a qualifier in Cape Town. And with a new found hunger and resilience, Bafana have as good a chance as any of reaching the latter stages of the competition.