If South Africa are to bow out of this African Nations Cup after their final match against Ghana on Tuesday, they will look at this as a tournament of missed opportunities.
It is not that the side has been outplayed in their opening two matches – far from it, they can arguably claim to have had the better of the play in both their loss to Algeria and Friday’s draw with Senegal.
But an inability to finish the excellent build-up play created by the likes of Sibusiso Vilakazi, Thuso Phala, Oupa Manyisa and Andile Jali is the reason they are facing an early flight home.
“We should be the top-scoring team in this tournament, we should have at least six goals in our two games,” a clearly frustrated coach Shakes Mashaba said after the Senegal draw.
“We just have a problem putting the ball in the back of the net – it is not for a lack of trying, the training session we had before this game focussed on finishing.”
It is a problem to which there is no easy fix, but you feel that if South Africa had finishers of the quality of Benni McCarthy or Shaun Bartlett in this Class of 2015, they would be genuine title contenders.
Another worry for Mashaba is their penchant for throwing away leads – South Africa have no problem hitting the front in matches, they just cannot stay there.
They have taken second half leads in both Group C matches to date but have been unable to hold on.
The choice of goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane ahead of the taller and more ‘able in the air’ Darren Keet was a surprising one against side the size of Senegal, with Mashaba surely knowing an aerial bombardment was coming.
Mabokgwane floundered all evening under the high ball and was partly at fault for the Senegal equaliser too when he found himself in no-mans land coming for a set-piece.
Senegal made four changes for the match which coach Alain Giresse said was to keep the team fresh.
They did not have the incisive attacking edge the side showed during qualifying, in the end having to rely really on their physical strength against the smaller South Africans.
The permutations in the pool going into Tuesday’s final round of matches, where South Africa play Ghana and Senegal meet Algeria, are as follows.
The winner of the match between Senegal and Algeria will go through to the quarterfinals, but if that game ends in a draw then Algeria must hope that South Africa beat Ghana.
For South Africa to go through they must beat Ghana and hope that Senegal do likewise to Algeria, the only possible set of circumstances that would see them into the quarterfinals.
Source : allAfrica.com