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COMMENT: Is Lebo Mothiba the answer to Bafana Bafana's goalscoring problem?

17:01 GMT+3 25/03/2018
Lebogang Mothiba, South Africa
After scoring two goals in as many games, Goal takes a look at why Mothiba is the right man for lead Bafana's attack

The current Fifa break has allowed national team coaches to plan and explore their options regarding their tactics and various options such as player combinations as well as finding solutions to goalscoring problems.

One of those coaches is none other than South Africa's  coach Stuart Baxter, who is one lucky coach to have benefited from the break.

Bafana Bafana went out to Zambia last week to honour their Four Nations tournament invitation and the trip has given coach Baxter a glimmer of hope in terms of solving the lack of goals in his team.

In their first match, the South Africans faced Angola and managed to scrape past the Palancas Negras via a 6-5 win over penalties as they fought back to secure a 1-1 draw.

Up next were the hosts Zambia whom they met in the final on Saturday evening in Ndola’s Levy Mwanawasa Stadium and they beat the Chipolopolo 2-0.

Baxter is a happy man after winning the trophy, but more than that, he is delighted because against Angola and Zambia, a man known as Lebohang Mothiba netted crucial goal in both games.

He may be relatively unknown in Mzansi since he plies his trade in one of the best leagues in Europe, in France for Lille OSC.

The 22-year-old is an unknown in SA because he has never played for any team in the Premier Soccer League, but was on the looks of Mamelodi Sundowns junior sides.

However, after he was handed his debut for the senior national side, he netted an equaliser and scored again as they defeated the Chipolopolo after coming on as a substitute

Although he promises to be a gem in the making and a player who can solve the national team’s gaol drought, he needs time.

As young as he is, it may be too early for him to carry the nation’s hopes on his shoulders, but he must be drafted gradually into the team.

We have to applaud the coach for calling him up and give him an opportunity to taste senior international football, but we must not be in a hurry to say we have found a solution because thi might kill the boy and put unnecessary pressure on him.

Yes, he is playing in Europe and he is getting the right development and teachings as far as the modern game and the art of finishing in front of goal, but we must support him and not expect miracles from him.

A look at stats, Bafana had players such as Benni McCarthy who remains the all-time top goalsorer with 31 goals, Shaun Bartlett (29), Bernard Parker, Katlego Mphela who both have 23 goals, but the goals have since dried up.

The issue with the goals has been labelled by many as a national crisis and some arguing that perhaps the national team must employ a coach to mainly focus on the striking department which can work in my view.

However, that idea has to be implemented from a young age, at development level and up to the senior level. For instance, it is a disgrace to see that the top goalscorer, McCarthy retired in 2012, yet no player seems to challenge and break the record.

Still talking about stats, the Diambars Academy graduate is certainly the solution as Baxter continues to find a goal poacher.

Out of two matches in the national side, he has delivered two goals – that is a perfect start for Mothiba, but he must remain cool headed and work harder.

At club level, the Johannesburg-born international has netted eight goals in 20 Ligue2 matches as well as providing two assists. That is not a bad statistic for the young man.

In my view, the English manager must keep calling him up for his camps and give him game time because that is how he will grow and get more experience in as far as senior international football is concerned.

I would also like to see the national team coach keeping track of his development and his game at club level to keep giving the youngster feedback – that will go a long way in helping him to improve upfront.

On the other hand, playing alongside players such as Themba Zwane, Ryan Moon, Percy Tau and Keagan Dolly will definitely help him because these are players who are not too old from him based on their ages, but their experience at senior level, will help not only Mothiba, but the young ones who are making their way into the side.

In terms of attacking options, Baxter is not a coach who can complain of not having enough ammunition because the likes of Tau and Moon are scoring goals in the PSL, but the only issue is how to find consistency to ensure they keep banging in the goals.

Players like Tau and Moon are also learning a number of things as they want to become regular goalscorers and in that process, there is a room for error and Mothiba will also benefit from that, he must be allowed to play freely, take initiative and express himself, that is how he will become a better player.

I am convinced that based on combinations, Mothiba will not struggle to gel in with his fellow attackers upfront and that he is the right man to solve our problems upfront especially when looking to the 2019 CAF African Cup of Nations Qualifier in September.