The Confederation Cup is done and dusted. Brazil beat a competitive USA, who took a week to find any form, in the final, and the best team over the two weeks won. That’s perhaps what most of the world took from this two week dress rehearsal to next years World Cup, but the bigger story, the endearing story was that of Bafana Bafana, the South African national team.
The world, and more precisely many in Europe, may have taken the noise of the Vuvuzela as their memory, and irritant, of the two week show case in South Africa, they have missed the mark by a long way. The Vuvuzela is part of South African footballing culture and brings the continents atmosphere and spirit to the event. Those who oppose them should get over themselves. Next years World Cup is going to be in Africa and should be an African World Cup and anything else would be criminal. Get over the Vuvuzela and take notice of Bafana Bafana.
Pride and confidence in the countries team was at an all time low before the tournament. The team had failed to qualify for next years African Nations Cup and had they needed to go through qualifying for the World Cup they would have more than likely not made it. Their last appearance in the African Nations Cup saw Bafana fail to get past he first round. There was real belief and embarrassment that the team could make unwanted history by becoming the first host country not to get past the group stage of the World Cup. The nation had little faith in Joel Santana or his team.
It took just two weeks for that to change. A statistical look at the fortnight shows that Bafana actually just won one match in their five in coming 4th, but statistics don’t tell the whole story. Bafana were unlucky not to get more from a 0-0 draw with Iraq, before a strong performance against New Zealand just about saw them through to the next round. A 2-0 loss to the worlds best team, Spain, set them up against Brazil in the semi’s. This is where the heart and pride of Bafana was restored.
For 88 minutes Bafana didn’t just match Brazil but out played them in patches. This was the brave Bafana that the country hoped for and expected. It took a dubious free kick in the 88 minute to get Brazil through to the final. The South American heavy weights scored at least 3 goals in every game they played in the competition, except for against Bafana. Another brave performance followed against Spain in the 3rd/4th place play off. Again Bafana didn’t look out of their depth and more than matched the European champions and number one world ranked team. A 3-2 extra time loss brought pride to the country and showed the team what they were capable of.
There is still a lot of work for Bafana to do in the year leading up to the World Cup. They need to take their chances – this was the failing that was the difference between them and the Brazil and Spain. But the team spirit and belief are there and heroes have been found in Booth, Masilela, Gaxa, Pienaar, Kune and Modise. The pride and confidence has been restored and there is no reason why the host nation should not be thinking of a second round showing in Africa’s first World Cup, at least. The nation and continent are behind Bafana Bafana.