Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Pitso Mosimane faces day of destiny

"In the unlikely event that we don't qualify, then it will be a blessing in disguise for us as hosts of the next tournament in 2013 because it gives us time to focus all our energy towards that tournament that is just a year away," is a quote - you may not be surprised to hear - from the South African Football Association's vice-president Mandla ‘Shoes' Mazibuko.

Now forgive me if I have missed something here but surely the prospect of Bafana Bafana not making it to a second successive continental showpiece would be an unmitigated disaster for what is by far Africa's richest football body? Failure to qualify for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in January would mean that South Africa will be kicking their heels until the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign begins in June next year.

And that's what makes Saturday's meeting with Sierra Leone in Port Elizabeth so crucial, especially if your name is Pitso Mosimane. The Bafana coach enjoyed a great - if uninspiring - start to his tenure but the disastrous defeat to Niger in Niamey means it is all out of his hands now.

Whether Egypt's under 23 side are good enough to do them a favour remains to be seen, although Niger's away record is about as convincing as Arsene Wenger's excuses after the north London derby at the weekend. Safa's head henchos will certainly have their fingers crossed that things go their way but don't be surprised if you hear more statements like the one above if it doesn't.

That was the official party-line when Joel Santana's squad crashed out of the race for Angola 2010 and it didn't convince anyone then either. Carlos Alberto Parreira eventually salvaged some face for the national team at the 2010 World Cup and things looked to be progressing nicely under Mosimane until his last match in charge.

Shorn of captain Steven Pienaar and a number of key personnel who were either out of form or favour at their clubs, a first competitive defeat for 'Jingles' would now prove to be terminal if Niger come away with all three points. A draw and a South African win would be enough, however, so Mosimane will be hoping there will no need for more excuses come Saturday night. 

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