THERE were times when South Africa’s Bafana Bafana would be sure winners against the Warriors of Zimbabwe. That cannot be the case this time around, when they visit for a 2022 World Cup qualifier.
The Bafana have sunk so low to the extent that they failed to qualify for the expanded 24-team 2021 Afcon finals, raising questions about whether this is the same team that represented Africa at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cup finals or not.
It is hard to believe that this is the same South Africa that enchanted purists with an attractive short passing game and gave Africa some of its best players in the form of Benni McCarthy, Phil Masinga, Lucas Radebe, among others.
That talent is gone and their top player Percy Tau, has found sanctuary at Egyptian club, Al Ahly, after struggling at lowly English Premiership side, Brighton. He also failed to make an impact during a loan spell with Anderlecht of Belgium.
Without sounding too boastful, right now, there are many in Mzansi who love or still dream that Khama Billiat should have been South African rather than Zimbabwean but sadly for them, the current status cannot be changed.
Even if Zimbabwe does not get all it’s England-based legion — player for player — the Warriors still look far much stronger than this South African team which we now find difficult to describe as a force in African football or just an ordinary outfit.
Surely, Marvelous Nakamba might not be coming, and chances are that Tendai Darikwa of Wigan, Admiral Muskwe of Luton Town, Jordan Zemura of Bournemouth, Macauley Bonne of Ipswich, and Brendon Galloway of Plymouth Argyle too, might also not be coming, but that should not be much of a big worry for the Warriors.
A team that has the depth to still field the talents of Teenage Hadebe, Marshall Munetsi, Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona, Tino Kadewere, and Perfect Chikwende, should be good enough to stand it’s ground against the best Africa has to offer and not least, a modest Bafana Bafana side.
In fact, the absence of Bonne and Galloway will certainly not be felt much as they were coming to play for Zimbabwe for the first time while Muskwe has been out of the Warriors set up for some time and has not contributed much to the team over the past two years.
Also of interest is the fact that the Warriors were without some of their most recognised stars, Nakamba, Kadewere, and Billiat when they travelled to Botswana for Afcon 2021, but still won and qualified for the finals.
More importantly is the fact that the Zimbabwean team has been hit only in defence with the non-availability of Darikwa, and Zemura, but has retained its sound in midfield and strength in attack.
There can only be one defensive midfielder in a team and Munetsi fills that void left by the combative Nakamba. Musona and Billiat will assume the attacking midfielders’ role to supply clean balls for Kadewere and Chikwende, as well to also get into positions to score themselves.
The Warriors are also helped by the fact that South Africa are rebuilding under a new coach from Belgium, Hugo Broos, who is only four months into the job following the sacking of Molefi Ntseki after the 2021 Afcon debacle.
The truth is that there are little signs that the current South African team can emulate the sides of the past which shook Africa and always had an edge over the Warriors of Zimbabwe in all competitions.
For Zimbabwe, the underlying message is that the scoreline does not matter much against Bafana Bafana, but what is important is the three points even if it is a 1-0 win.
Happily, though, the Warriors might not have been playing well under Zdravko Logarusic but even in their disabled state, they should be able to beat Bafana Bafana.
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