Monday, September 8, 2008

Should South Africa Coach Get Boot?

Now that South Africa has been eliminated from the 2010 African Cup of Nations, will South Africa coach Joel Santana get the boot?

A South African newspaper editorial from the Cape Times doesn't seem to think so.

The South African Football Association must stay calm and resist the urge to fire coach Joel Santana after Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the African Nations Cup in Angola in 2010.

Bafana lost 1-0 to Nigeria on Saturday, ending their hopes of sneaking in through the backdoor after a miserable campaign in Group Four. Yet Bafana were irresistible at times on a dusty and patchy EPRU Stadium pitch and played some of the best football seen by the national team for a long time. Yet they just could not find the back of the net.

The knee-jerk reaction now would be to fire the coach. The Brazilian coach has so far only managed to win one qualifying match. The 4-1 victory over Equatorial Guinea was also the only time Bafana managed to score in their campaign.

But Santana was always on a hiding to nothing after inheriting the team from his countryman Carlos Parreira only a month before the start of the qualifiers.

In his first international in charge, Bafana were outplayed by the Super Eagles in Abuja. They were played off the park that day and lost 2-0. After beating Equatorial Guinea, Bafana then travelled to Sierra Leone, where they lost 1-0 to the Leone Stars, drawing with them a week later in Atteridgeville. In both games they failed to score after creating numerous chances.

Bafana needed to win Saturday's game to stand a chance of qualifying. Ace goal-scorer Benni McCarthy was back after missing the first four qualifiers. Nigeria were depleted and looked ripe for the picking.

A couple of old faces were back and everybody in the Bafana team was quietly confident that they can pull-off their first competitive victory over the Super Eagles.

And they nearly delivered.

Bafana played out of their socks. It was probably one their best performances in recent times. But yet again poor finishing cost them the game. After nearly 20 shots at goal, you would expect that at least one of them would find the back of the net. But it was not to be.

Now people are calling for the coach's head after his team failed to qualify for their first Nations Cup since 1996. But what purpose would that serve?

Judged purely on results, Santana does not have a strong case. But appointing a new coach two years ahead of the World Cup and less than a year from the Confederation Cup would be counter-productive.

And what about the responsibility of the players? Santana can only do so much. Unfortunately he can't hold a player like Siyabonga Nkosi's hand while he is in the box.

On Saturday, Bafana played some breathtaking football at times. Tactically speaking, you could see that Santana had drilled the team the week before and that he has a vision for the team. For instance, he has been criticised for playing two defensive midfielders. Yet it did seem to work on Saturday. Kagisho Dikgacoi and Macbeth Sibaya created so much space for their attacking players it was almost embarrassing.

Unfortunately poor finishing and decision-making undid all the hard work. It was a shame, and the team must have been gutted after Nigeria scored with about probably their first shot on target.

The point is that firing Santana will be a step backward. He does have a vision and it seems the players are starting to buy into it. Saturday's statistics on possession and shots on goal makes a compelling case for how well Bafana played.

If they can learn how to finish and score goals, perhaps they will be able to compete with the likes of Nigeria. But at international level players should able to score goals. It is not up to the coach to teach them that.


Bolasinema said...

Well, South Africa must be the best in World Cup 2010.
I am from Indonesia. Indonesian people so much loves football. Is there anyone wanna xchange link with me ?

Anonymous said...

Thanks alot for the great post
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