Bafana Bafana will travel to Ghana for their final Group G World Cup qualifying match needing just a point to make it to the play-offs for Qatar 2022, but it remains to be seen if Hugo Broos’ men will live to regret failing to rack up a larger margin of victory against Zimbabwe at FNB Stadium on Thursday night.
Ghana’s 1-1 draw in Ethiopia earlier on Thursday meant Bafana knew that with a win over Zimbabwe, they could only be matched on points at the top of Group G by the Black Stars, with the final group qualifier to come in the Cape Coast on Sunday.
With only a 1-0 victory over the Warriors, however, Bafana cannot afford to lose in Ghana on Sunday, or they will be pipped by the Black Stars on either goal difference or goals scored. Had they netted just one more goal in front of a vocal if small group of supporters on Thursday, a defeat in Ghana by a margin of one goal would also have seen them through.
Still, Bafana are in pole position to win Group G, which few would have expected and the pressure will be on Ghana in front of their own fans, with only a win enough for the Black Stars.
Broos, as expected, restored Percy Tau to the starting line-up in attack, while Dolly, who had been singled out for praise by Broos in the week, was given his first Bafana start since the Belgian head coach took over in March.
While Bafana had an attacking line-up on paper, they were disjointed in the first half, with too many long balls over the top not reaching their intended target.
Dolly was the exception to a rather bland rule on the right side of attack, in the 12th minute finding Bongokuhle Hlongwane inside the area with a fine pass. Hlongwane tried to produce a nifty trick, lifting the ball over a Zimbabwean opponent’s head but straight into the arms of Warriors goalkeeper Petros Mhari.
A minte later, Dolly stole the ball from Zimbabwe defender Brendan Gallagher and whipped in a fine cross that Mhari just got to before Evidence Makgopa.
Zimbabwe were creating little themselves, but almost caught Bafana by surprise with a long punt upfield, that left Ishmael Wadi through on goal. Wadi, however, opted to wait for help and his pass only found a Bafana man.
Bafana went in front in the 26th minute, and again the inspiration came from Dolly, his superb cross headed into the far corner of the net by Mokoena.
Immediately after, Hlongwane had a great chance but tried to beat his man on the outside, instead of cutting in and taking a shot, and didn’t manage to.
Four minutes after the break, Khama Billiat found some space on the edge of the Bafana box and fed Wadi, whose cross appeared to set up a tap in for Blessing Sarupinda. Sarupinda, somehow blazed over the bar, however, and must have been grateful for the offside flag that would have ruled out a goal anyway.
Broos brought on Fagrie Lakay for Makgopa in the 62nd minute, and the Cape Town City attacker immediately linked up well with Dolly, the latter firing in a long-range shot that was acrobatically tipped away by Mhari.
From the resulting corner, Thibang Phete’s header was also tipped over by Mhari.