SOME staff members of the SA Football Association managed to find an opening during this match to squeeze in a group picture. It was a bit a of side-show to help distract them from the yawn fest that was in full display here.
South Africa (1) 1 Makola 7
Egypt (0) 0
Simply put, the trigger might have gone off for Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba with this Nelson Mandela Challenge result against an Egypt team that had clearly taken their foot off the pedal, but were still quite dominant as Mohamed Salah fluffed several chances to put the ball past goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.
Mashaba has been taking flak all week long, especially following last Friday’s lackluster showing in the 1-1 draw against Mauritania in a dead rubber 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier. In the build-up to Bafana hosting the Pharaohs, speculation has been rife that the coach would be shown the door regardless of the outcome here. No Afcon participation and no clear vision. The Safa bosses can be indecisive at times, much like the national team in front of goals as seen on the night, but should they go ahead and send Mashaba packing, then this was truly a somber farewell party.
This encounter had actually gotten off to a flyer with Mpho Makola getting the early goal in the seventh minute after Mandla Masango had delivered an exquisite cross for the Orlando Pirates man to head home at the near post. It was exactly the start Mashaba would have wanted and perhaps was desperate to see in the earlier matches – ones that mattered most. Bafana were playing with determination, as they always do in friendly matches. But it appears breaking the deadlock so quickly was reason enough for South Africa to sit back – it just went downhill from there.
It felt a little bit like déjà vu, we had definitely seen this movie before and so have Mashaba’s employers. The players had spoken of how they needed to shoulder the blame for the coach’s tenure turning into a circus since qualifying for the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea, bowing out in the group stages of the tournament without winning a match and then failing to book their place in next year’s edition of the continental competition.
They were world-beaters for all of 10 minutes, which includes the build-up to Makola’s goal and then it was the same old story. It was a foregone conclusion that Bafana would be more determined to win against Egypt given the climate in which the match was played under and the fact that South Africa usually thrive in meaningless games. Just think back to last year’s Mandela Challenge against Senegal, the trip to South America where Bafana beat Costa Rica and drew with Honduras. It’s their specialty, and it appears to have cost Mashaba his position as head coach.
Well, at least he will go home with a trophy should Safa pull the trigger. He certainly gave them further ammunition with this humdrum and colourless victory over an Egypt side that was simply honouring the fixture because they have delivered where it matters most – the Pharaohs, the seven-times African champions, are off to the Afcon next year.