CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s national team Bafana Bafana will take heart from their fighting display in a goalless draw against Zimbabwe in their opening second-round match in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying at the National Sports Stadium, Harare, on Friday afternoon.
Bafana Bafana enjoyed a bye in the first-round qualifying and it was an untried youthful combination that ran out for their Group G fixture which marked the debut of Hugo Broos as South Africa’s national team coach.
A goalless draw from an away match will be seen as a fair result ahead of their second Group G match on Monday when Bafana Bafana host Ghana in Johannesburg on Monday. African giants Ghana are the overwhelming favourites to win Group G.
Contrary to expectations the youthful Bafana Bafana took the game to the hosts Zimbabwe rather than sit back and wait for the opposition to make all the early play.
With an average age of 26 years, this was one of the youngest teams Bafana Bafana has fielded and they came to light with several touches of enterprising football as they secured a possession advantage, against opponents with an average age of 29 years.
Most of their attacking plays were launched out wide down the left flank but they made little headway when trying to penetrate the final third. As a result, shots on target were far and few between.
When sweeping upfield, Bafana Bafana, playing to a 4-4-2 formation, frequently changed their point of attack. It was proving effective as Zimbabwe’s five-man midfield were kept on their toes trying to break down the attacking sorties.
After 30 mins, Bafana Bafana’s early pressure forced four corners but apart from one training ground move which Zimbabwe found hard to contain, there was little chance of breaking the deadlock. A few short passes from a corner caught Zimbabwe’s napping and unmarked Evidence Makgopa rose well to meet a goalmouth cross-kick but his effort ballooned over the crossbar.
Moments after Makgopa’s effort Zimbabwe waged a telling counter down their right flank and a few passes later their lone striker Kharma Billiat managed to shake off the attentions of two markers. He struck a rasping drive from an acute angle and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Ronwen Williams tipped the ball over the bar to concede a corner, Zimbabwe’s first in the match.
A feature of the first-half play was a 40m shot by Bafana Bafana midfielder Teboho Mokoena and it had ‘goal’ written all over it, but Zimbabwe goalkeeper Talbert Shumba saved the day by tipping the ball over the crossbar.
The statistics showed that Bafana Bafana enjoyed 54% ball possession in the first half but despite this advantage, they landed a miserly four shots at goal compared to eight by Zimbabwe.
The pace picked up somewhat in the second half with Bafana Bafana holding the upper hand for most of the way. An early second-half substitution saw central midfielder Gift Links make way for substitute Bongokuhle Hlongwane.
Ten minutes after Hlongwane joined the fray he came within a whisker of scoring after his shot took a deflection and evaded Zimbabwe’s goalkeeper Shumba Talbert, but defender Takudzwa Chimwemwe was well-positioned to clear the ball off his goalline.
Around the hour mark, Zimbabwe’s Croatian manager Zdravko Logarušić made three substitutions in quick succession, but the changes failed to have the desired effect. Zimbabwe managed a few runs deep into the opposition half but failed to create clear-cut scoring chances.
At the end of the half, Bafana Bafana growing in confidence fashioned a few half-chances, but none were converted.