Bafana Bafana overcame their nightmarish trip to Cameroon with a strong performance against CAR on Saturday
Historically, the South African football team have been poor travellers. However, the national side defied this tag in one of their most impressive outings under the Gordon Igesund regime. The score-line read 3-0, which displays the ease with which Bafana Bafana dismantled CAR in Cameroon.
The trip to Cameroon was not an easy one for South Africa. Logistical nightmares hampered their training time, causing the side to spend more hours on the road than needed. If this was supposed to be a test of South Africa’s fortitude on the road, merely getting to the ground was proving to be a difficult task.
"It was very tough. We only trained once in the week, really, and it was very tough on the players towards the end of the game," Igesund said on Saturday following the victory against CAR.
"I haven't spoken about it and the players haven't spoken about it, but I'll tell you now, it was a very tough week for us - the travelling, the flights, and all this kind of nonsense.
"We kept it aside, we just stayed focussed for the game, and we've got four games left to get to the World Cup."
A tired and emotionally drained side started the match against CAR, but their performance did not reflect the amount of time and energy it took to arrive in Yauonde. Slick passing and pace dismantled CAR defenders as Tshabalala drove forward, saw an opportunity to feed the ball into space and give Bernard Parker a chance to find the opening goal. Parker delivered and his goal sparked South Africa into action.
The old South African side would have gone into their shell; would have been relieved to have a lead away from home. But Igesund’s mentality was on show in his player’s efforts to double the score, with Tshabalala providing some electric combination play with Rantie and a finish to match – as he rounded Yezzoat and nonchalantly placed his shot into the back of the net.
The demons of past disappointments were slowly being erased. South Africa did not falter under the pressure and kept composed in defence. The side soaked up CAR’s attempts to push for a goal, through some strong saves from Khune and equally impressive defensive efforts from a largely untested back four combination.
The result was confirmed when Mashego netted a late header. The joy etched on his face matched the performance from South Africa. A performance which was hailed by Igesund following the match.
"The CAR team is really a tough side," Igesund said.
"They showed it both in Cape Town, and again today, but I am proud of my boys. They had so much belief and worked for each other."
With Ethiopia on the horizon and a clash at altitude in prospect, Bafana will have another chance to erase the demons which have plagued their away performances for a long time. The game will be a defining step in their road to World Cup qualification, but it will be a much tougher step to take than their 3-0 demolition of CAR.
Itumeleng Khune recognised this fact when, following the result on Saturday, he said, "For now, we need to enjoy the victory but must quickly remember that we still have a mountain to climb in Addis Ababa.
"Both teams have won their matches and they will go into this clash high in spirits, but I am positive we can complete this mission."