Bafana Bafana probably exceeded expectations with a workmanlike, professional, if not entirely polished display while drawing 1-1 with Burkina Faso in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifying game in Ouagadougou on Saturday night.
The bad news is that in the other Group D qualifier, from which only one of four teams will qualify for the World Cup event in Russia, is that the star-studded Senegal combination forcibly confirmed their status as favourites from the group during a dominant 2-0 victory against the Cape Verde Islands.
What is more, in the context of the two games in juxtaposition, it was evident enough that there are unlikely to be any easy games for Bafana in the home-and away confrontation, with Burkina Faso and the Cape Verde Islands showing they are no pushovers – in addition, of course, to the prime danger that is imbedded in Senegal’s foreboding strength.
And, to emphasise this threat from The Lions of Teranga is a record which suggests Senegal are arguably the strongest team in Africa right now, with a conglomeration of players shining in top European competition of the ilk of Liverpool sensation Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Keita Balde, Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gana Gueye.
In addition, this cascading talent is being moulded knowledgably by a coach in Alion Cisse who was a prominent member of the 2002 Senegal team that accounted for holders France and went on to reach the World Cup quarter-finals – equalling, in the process, the record for African countries held jointly with Cameroon and Ghana.
All this makes the importance of Bafana’s next World Cup qualifier at home to Senegal on November 7 of such paramount implication that a defeat could summarily prove the death knell of making it to Russia.
The Burkina Faso draw in which sharp-as-nails goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and Trojan-working goal-scorer Dean Furman emerged the stars was a promising performance – despite the home team committing the cardinal sin of squandering two penalties – but it might need mustering another giant step forward against Senegal.