Saturday, October 8

Mahlatse Ramatseba

Bafana Bafana - Khune keeps Bafana’s World Cup hopes alive

Burkina Faso 0-0 Bafana - Soccer Laduma

This is not a happy hunting ground for Bafana Bafana, and an early penalty - which goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune brilliantly saved - was a clear indication that the status quo wouldn’t change in this Group D opening 2018 World Cup qualifier.
The South Africans were chasing the game from literally the first kick of the ball. Had Khune not guessed correctly to stop talisman Jonathan Pitroipa’s penalty, clawing their way back would have been a mountain to climb. Alain Traore also sent his spot kick wide in the 88th minute to give Bafana false hope that they would clinch this.
Bafana were visiting this venue for the third time for a World Cup qualifier and have never walked away with all three points. Coach Shakes Mashaba was desperate to be the first and get off to a dream start on the journey to Russia. But, to be honest, it was keeper Khune who kept Bafana in the game. We were all starting to lose count of how many times he’d denied the Burkina Faso strikers from breaking the deadlock.
Mashaba knows all too well the ramifications of beginning any qualifier on the wrong footing. The coach also knows the perks of winning your opening game. Burkina Faso will be headed to next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon, while South Africa miss out after finishing third in a group that included Cameroon, lowly Mauritania and minnows Gambia.

Given the pressure they were under here, a point is perhaps half decent, but it’s not what Mashaba’s bosses in Nasrec were looking for. Senegal will follow next month at home, and then there’s a nine-months wait before Bafana visit Cape Verde. It’s a tricky group, and if last night’s encounter here is anything to go by, then Mashaba and his men will find it extremely tough.
Prejuce Nakoulma toyed with Mulomowandau Mathoho at the back, but could not score. The Traore brothers - Alain and Bertrand - at times proved too much for Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Thabo Matlaba, who were playing as right and left-back respectively for Bafana. When they were beaten, Khune was on hand to prove just why he remains the country’s No1.
He was close to keeping a 40th clean sheet in his 80th appearance for the national team, but was eventually beaten by Banou Diawara with the game all but over to cancel out Dean Furman’s strike ten minutes earlier.
Bafana’s chances were limited, but that is expected when you are on the backfoot from the first minute of the match at a venue where victory is such a rarity. It makes complete sense then that the opening goal came from an unlikely source in Furman, whose scuffed shot was enough to beat Burkina Faso goalkeeper Koffi Herve. When that went in, you could here a pin drop after the vocal and energetic fans of the Stallions were silenced and starring at a defeat in their opening World Cup qualifier. They fought back, however, a spectacular overhead kick making its way past Khune to end this clash - played under hot and humid conditions - in a stalemate.

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