ON THE MARK: SA shine in World Cup Qualifier against Zimbabwe

football12 June 2024 16:53| © Mzansi Football
By:Mark Gleeson
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South Africa’s performance in Tuesday’ s World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe was certainly something to get excited about, particularly the strong second half showing when the team dominated proceedings.

There has been a marked improvement this year, notably a semifinal place at the Africa Cup of Nations finals, a World Cup point picked up away in Nigeria and then a well-earned victory over the Zimbabweans.

It could have ended with an even bigger margin of victory than the 3-1 scoreline, a long cry from the day some three decades ago when it was Zimbabwe handing out the thrashing.

The turnout at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein was also noteworthy and it seems incredible that Bafana Bafana last played in the city at the 2010 World Cup finals.

There is obviously appetite around the country to watch the national team, who have for too long been shuttling between Johannesburg and Durban.

Durban is a preferred venue because the municipality there pays for the team to come and play, believing such matches bring in visitors and related tourism spending. P

laying in Johannesburg keeps the costs down and offers the advantage of playing altitude. The thin Highveld air is always tough for traveling teams to deal with.

Bafana Bafana have perhaps not used enough of this advantage for key fixtures, but the downside is the Gauteng crowds have been disappointing in size.

The national team does need to get around the country a bit more with internationals in Cape Town, East London, Gqeberha and Nelspruit overdue.

Qualification for the World Cup is still a long way off. There are six more matches to play in the group and the campaign now takes a hiatus until March next year.

Instead, the next focus is the preliminaries for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, to be held in Morocco.

It is not clear if it will be mid-2025 or early 2026 but the qualifying games are scheduled to be squeezed into three months this year – September, October and November.

A sharp, intense campaign with hopefully more pleasure for Bafana supporters.