It was far from mission impossible when, on June 24 2016, South Africa’s opponents for their 2016 World Cup qualifying group were revealed: Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cape Verde. It was doable, but as has been the case in the country's footballing history, Bafana likes to make things difficult and complicated, and always to our own detriment.
A year-and-a-half later, having changed coach, replayed a fixed qualifier, endured player withdrawals, celebrated a sole victory and endlessly complained following four losses and another failed effort in qualifying for the world showpiece, these are the final numbers of South Africa’s disappointing campaign:
0 – No clean sheets were kept in South Africa’s six qualifiers, compared to two kept in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. Itumeleng Khune let in six goals in his four matches played, while Wayne Sandilands and Ronwen Williams let in two apiece, both against Cape Verde.
1 – Thamsanqa Mkhize at least tried to find the humour after his unfortunate own goal in the 2-0 loss to Senegal in Polokwane, the only own goal of Bafana’s campaign.
2 – Erick Mathoho and Bongani Zungu were the two players to receive their marching orders, against Cape Verde and Burkina Faso respectively.
3 – Three penalties were conceded over the six games, with two conceded in the 1-1 draw against Burkina Faso following Mathoho’s dubious handball and Oupa Manyisa’s needless challenge. Fortunately, neither penalty was converted. Dean Furman’s challenge in the box resulted in a penalty in the first leg encounter against Cape Verde, which Nuno Rocha tucked away.
4 – South Africa suffered four losses from six games, with just one win and one draw.
4 – Bafana Bafana managed to earn just four points across all their qualifiers, as did Libya in Group A and Mali in Group C. Only Algeria (2) and Guinea (3) of the 20 teams involved, did worse. Bafana’s tally is seven points worse off than their 2014 World Cup qualifying tally, where they ended second in Group A.
7 – Seven goals were scored by the national team (half of what topscorers DR Congo scored in the qualifiers), with six different goalscorers getting their names on the scoresheet: Dean Furman, Tokelo Rantie, Andile Jali, Percy Tau, Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi. Tau was the only scorer to net twice. Bafana scored 12 goals across their six qualifiers for the 2014 Mundial.
10 – Ten goals were conceded in the qualifiers, the fourth-worst of all 20 teams involved, and five more than they let in last campaign.
14 – The South Africans picked up 14 yellow cards across the six games played, with Furman the guiltiest with three to his name.