Cosafa banana skin for Bafana!

The latest Fifa rankings have seen Zambia dip 11 places and tumble behind South Africa, just in time for Bafana to again be the top seed.

But even though the event is now much changed from its early days, it still offers the potential of a slippery banana skin for Gordon Igesund.

South Africa play Namibia in Lusaka on Saturday as they enter at the quarterfinal stage. Namibia have won two group games already to qualify.

It was Namibia who embarrassed Bafana on the eve of the 1998 African Nations Cup by beating coach Jomo Sono 3-2 on his debut after extra time in Windhoek. The next year the Brave Warriors eliminated them again, this time on post-match penalties.

Two home defeats by Zimbabwe have seen South Africa go out in ignominious circumstances and there have been other setbacks in Botswana and Malawi.

The worst return was a 2-0 loss to Mauritius in early 2004, again on the eve of the Nations Cup finals, proving a portent of the poor showing that followed in Tunisia.

This year’s tournament in Zambia comes after a four-year hiatus during which a lack of sponsorship threatened to render it dormant.

Much effort has gone into its resuscitation, to acclaim throughout southern Africa, save for South Africa where the competition was never able to match the popularity it drew in neighbouring countries.

Much of that has to do with the limp approach to the tournament from the South African Football Association, fielding haphazard teams at times when their opponents always sought to put their best possible teams onto the park.

Since the introduction of the coordinated Fifa match calendar it is no longer possible for the countries to field their best players.

In the formative years of the Cosafa Cup, call-up rules were different. Countries could demand their players from clubs up to eight times a year and did so for the Cosafa cup. But since Fifa changed that rule, clubs no longer have to release players for international duty except on the dates specified by the calendar.

Igesund has had to scramble to put a squad together for the weekend but a lack of preparation time threatens to add his name to the list of coaches who have found the regional championship a daunting task despite South Africa’s lofty ranking.

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