France vs Bafana Bafana: Decades-long problem still haunts South Africa

Bafana Bafana’s inability to produce top quality strikers has been an ongoing issue for the past 20 years.

Back in the mid to late 1990’s South Africa possessed an abundance of reliable marksmen, including Benni McCarthy, Shaun Bartlett, Daniel Mudau, Phil Masinga, Mark Williams, Brendan Augustine and Siyabonga Nomvethe.

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It was Williams who netted a brace to help Bafana win the 1996 Afcon, while it was the likes of Bartlett, McCarthy and Masinga who ensured South Africa qualify for their first-ever World Cup.

Coincidentally, Bafana’s first opponents at the World Cup were France, and even with Bafana’s vast array of talent in that 1998 team, they were beaten 3-0 by the hosts.

But that does not take away from the fact that back then, 24 years ago, South Africa had proper, proven strikers in their ranks.

Phil Masinga of Bafana at the World Cup

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Now, as Bafana prepare to meet the mighty French again, they head into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw against Guinea in which their lack of finishing prowess up front was exposed; had there been more composure, South Africa would have won that game comprehensively.

It’s an issue Bafana coach Hugo Broos has admitted to:

“We know that we don’t have a top scorer in South Africa – one guy who only needs one chance to score,” Broos told Safa media.

“So there is a bit of a lack but again, it’s something to do with confidence. The day we start scoring, that problem will be solved.”

The one player who comes closest to a legitimate international-class striker, Percy Tau, has had injury issues over the past year or so, and in his absence, Broos has turned to a bunch of relatively young, unproven (at least internationally) strikers . No one has entirely convinced yet.

Even before Broos, it’s been ages since Bafana had a forward they could rely on, someone they knew could win them matches. Over the past 10 or 15 years, it’s only really Katlego Mphela who has fallen into that category.

What is the answer?

If Bafana are to realize their full potential, they need to find ways to produce higher quality strikers. It could take years though as it would probably need to be implemented from grassroots level, where a more concerted effort must be made to identify and holistically train talented young strikers.

Whether that involves getting former pros involved – the likes of McCarthy, Nomvethe and Bartlett for example, or investing in more academies and School-of-Excellence-type institutions, it’s a challenge which Safa and the PSL need to address as the issue of scoring continues to hold South African football back.

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