SOUTH AFRICA enter their crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier double-header against Cape Verde over the coming week with a strong record in the preliminaries‚ even if qualification has eluded them in four of the last six finals.
Bafana Bafana came through the qualifiers to reach the finals in 1998 and 2002‚ and appeared as hosts in 2010 having played‚ and failed in the qualifiers too‚ but missed out in 1994‚ 2006 and 2014.
They take a mostly positive qualifier record into the games with the west Africans‚ with the previous 46 preliminary matches having yielded 28 victories and 10 defeats‚ with eight games drawn.
South Africa have lost only two of their previous 23 home qualifiers‚ to Ghana ahead of the 2006 tournament and Nigeria ahead of 2010‚ winning 17 of those games‚ which is why they will be heavy favourites to claim victory on Tuesday when they host Cape Verde in Durban.
But before then is a trip to Praia and it is obvious from history that it has been an inability to pick up maximum points on the road that has seen Bafana miss out of World Cup finals in the past.
So far in this campaign they have claimed a very credible 1-1 draw in Burkina Faso‚ but they really need to follow that up with a win in Cape Verde if they are to stay on course for Russia 2018.
In total the side has played 23 World Cup qualifiers on the road and won 11 of those‚ less than half‚ to go with four draws and eight defeats against Nigeria (1992)‚ Congo (1997)‚ Ghana‚ DR Congo (both 2004)‚ Burkina Faso (2005)‚ Nigeria‚ Sierra Leone (both 2008) and Ethiopia (2013).
It is a patchy record that needs improving in this campaign‚ with Friday’s trip to Praia followed later in the year by what will be a massive clash in Dakar against Senegal.
Bafana can at least point to a positive record against Cape Verde‚ with their two previous meetings both coming in coach Stuart Baxter’s last spell in charge.
They won 2-1 in Praia thanks to a double-strike from Mbulelo Mabizela‚ and then claimed the home game by the same scoreline as Benni McCarthy and Delron Buckley were on target.
Shaun Bartlett is South Africa’s most prolific scorer in qualifiers with seven goals (and nine in all World Cup matches)‚ with Phil Masinga (six) and Bernard Parker (five) the next highest.
Bafana’s biggest victory in qualifiers was 4-1‚ achieved twice.
The first was against Equatorial Guinea in 2008‚ a game notable for containing the only two international goals scored by Kagisho Dikgacoi.
They also beat Botswana 4-1 in September 2013 when Bernard Parker netted a brace‚ and Dean Furman and Kermit Erasmus scored their first international goals.
South Africa’s biggest defeat in qualifiers was a 4-0 loss in their first ever qualifier against Nigeria in 1992.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed minister of Sport Thulas Nxesi will accompany the team to Praia.
SAFA boss Danny Jordaan was ecstatic the minister would support the team as sign of solidarity, reports Karabo Moloi.
This would be the minister’s first official trip accompanying Bafana.