By Matt Carter
After years of gross underachievement that made a mockery of their lush resources, there are at long last signs of Bafana Bafana beginning to rediscover their unrivalled potential.
Despite ultimately falling at the first hurdle, Shakes Mashaba’s youthful side provided a constant source of exuberance to a tournament in which invention was often in short supply.
The obtaining of just a single point hardly hints at a renaissance, yet that meagre total is heavily influenced by Bafana Bafana being allocated the most arduous of group stage assignments alongside the talent-loaded trio of Algeria, Ghana, and Senegal.
South Africa were anything but disgraced in each of their respective fixtures, which represents stark improvements on the tribulations of recent years that have seen them persistently stutter against relatively mediocre opposition – for instance, the failure to negotiate a route into the final round of World Cup qualification.
An emphatic qualification suggested a changing of the tide and whilst Equatorial Guinea wasn’t the complete transition many had hope for – largely the result of that earlier mentioned unfortunate draw – there was enough evidence on display to indicate the building blocks are in place for an altogether brighter future.
Despite the undeniable progress, South Africa’s tournament was tarnished by frustrations of what might have been given that in all three group fixtures Bafana Bafana spurned a goal advantage – wilting particularly badly against both Algeria and Ghana.
Naivety and inexperience undoubtedly played a part in their struggles. However, there is also a notion that Mashaba’s high intensity game was a factor in South Africa consistently folding in the business end of games.
Together with that, Bafana Bafana also suffered from a lack of proficiency infront of goal – few nations could parallel their plethora of missed chances – whilst the utilisation of three separate goalkeepers only further highlighted just what a loss the late Senzo Meyiwa is to South African football.
Tokelo Rantie might have been a menacing presence throughout, yet the Bournemouth striker’s finishing left much to be desired. Nobody was more guilty of wastefulness than Rantie, with the peak of his profligacy coming in the form of a missed spotkick against Algeria when South Africa were already a goal up – had that gone in Bafana Bafana’s tournament might well have taken a somewhat differing route.