OPINION: Bafana a step closer to World Cup qualification
South Africans love local sport and always want their national teams to do well regardless of code, especially at major sporting events. This was the case for Bafana Bafana when they took on Angola in a tough World Cup qualifier on Friday afternoon.
A lot has been said leading up to the match about selection of players and what tactics coach Shakes Mashaba would apply over the two legs.
I was anxiously waiting for the squad announcement, hoping I would see players I felt deserved to get a nod to wear the national team jersey.
Mashaba had an abundance of top performing players from both local and abroad that he could select. Diski fans were hoping to see the likes of Keagan Dolly, Thabo Rakhale and Kermit Erasmus, who have been setting the scene alight on the local front, and overseas based players like Ayanda Patosi, Darren Keet and Lebogang Phiri to aid in the fight for a World Cup spot.
However, the coach stuck to his tried and tested men, and was dealt a blow when Itumeleng Khune had to withdraw due to injury. Replacement Brilliant Khuzwayo was also unavailable due to family commitments, and this made way for Wayne Sandilands to be called up.
Coming from a string of below par performances in recent games, the pressure was mounting on Bafana to step up if they wanted to qualify for Russia in 2018.
Mashaba has done well since taking over from Gordan Igesund, and is still on track for his 2022 vision. So far he has kept the pressure off his fairly young squad and has turned them into a competitive team, getting some good results along the way. Preparation in Central America leading up to the qualifiers saw the team getting back on track. Some fans questioned the preparation process and added more pressure by saying this is 'Do or die' for Mashaba.
He went to Benguela with an attacking team, knowing what our boys are capable of doing on the day. We were sure to cause havoc, and that's exactly what the technical team was thinking when they put Thamsanqa Gabuza and Tokelo Rantie on to lead our attack. Bafana said, "We're coming here to win and score goals, and we don't care if this is your home, we're taking over today".
The game started off at a blistering pace with Angola opening the scoring as early as 90 seconds through Gerson against the run of play.
Bafana did well not to let the early goal affect them and kept on attacking and were dually rewarded in the fourteenth minute with a superb finish from EPL striker Rantie after some great work from the ever-running Thabo Matlaba.
Bafana's nerves were settling, and they started playing attacking football and got a second goal through thanks to Gabuza. Rantie, Gabuza, Mandla Masango and Andile Jali dictated the game and Bafana went into the break pleased with the lead.
The second-half kicked off with both teams trying to grab hold of the game. A lot of possession was given away easily, resulting in a 'scrappy' game with lots of fouls in the opening 15 minutes.
Angola tried to get back in the game, but nothing much came from it, with captain on the day Jackson Mabokgwane not having much to do since the opening minute of the game.
The ever-impressive Jali secured the win in the 82nd minute from the penalty spot, after Rantie was brought down in the area. Jali was shown a second yellow card for provoking the crowd and was sent off. This was a disappointment after a great performance from both him and the team.
Bafana Bafana looked impressive away from home; they come back confident and one step closer to qualifying for Russia.
Angola, on the other hand, need to come to Durban with an all-out attacking approach, which might play into our hands leaving them exposed at the back. I have all the confidence in Mashaba and with the boys firing on all cylinders, I'm sure he will come up with a great plan to see us advance to the next round.
Good luck Bafana Bafana, we are fully behind you.
Brent Carelse is a former Bafana Bafana international and played his domestic football for, among others, Ajax Cape Town, Mamelodi Sundowns and Superport United, where he won back-to-back league titles.
He'll be sharing his football opinions regularly on ewn.co.za. Follow him on Twitter: @brentcarelse