Hugo Broos did not appear to be aware of the correct rules of qualifying for the 2022 Fifa World Cup after his side had only managed a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in their Group G clash at FNB Stadium on Thursday evening.
The victory leaves Bafana in a strong position to qualify for the World Cup play-offs as group winners, three points ahead of second-place Ghana, with the two to meet in their final group qualifier in the Cape Coast on Sunday.
A draw or win in Ghana will put Bafana in the play-offs, while any sort of defeat will see the Black Stars make it through instead.
Broos, however, did not appear aware of this after the match, his words indicating that he felt Bafana could lose 2-0 to Ghana and still go through.
There were certainly shades here of 2011 at Mbombela Stadium, when Pitso Mosimane and Bafana’s lack of knowledge of the rules saw them miss out on qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
“I think the biggest error we can make Sunday is if we defend,” said Broos.
“We will receive goals for sure,” he added, and then it got weird.
“If we lose (concede) one goal it is nothing, but a second goal it becomes tricky so at some periods of the game we must make pain for Ghana. If we lose the game we must make sure we don’t lose the game by too many goals.”
It is hard to fathom where Broos got this idea of the qualifying rules from, and it marks perhaps the first serious false step from a man who has made such a good impression on the senior national team.
It also means that Bafana did not know that, following Ghana’s draw in Ethiopia earlier on Thursday, beating Zimbabwe by a greater margin than one goal would have put them in a position where they could have lost to Ghana and still gone through.
If teams are tied on points, the World Cup qualifiers are decided first by goal difference in the group, then by goals scored in the group, and only after that does any head-to-head rule come into play.
As it stands, Ghana would progress even with victory by a one-goal margin on Sunday, as they would be tied on goal difference with Bafana, but ahead of them on goals scored, the second of the tie-breaking criteria.
Had Bafana scored just one more goal against Zimbabwe, however, they could have lost by a one goal margin against Ghana and gone through on goal difference.
Equally a 1-1 draw with Zimbabwe on Thursday would have meant exactly the same as a 1-0 win for Bafana – Broos’ side would still have needed a point to qualify.
As such there is a decent argument that it was worth throwing caution to the wind for Bafana in the later stages of the match.
At least Broos would have had the option to do as much, if he had been aware of the situation. But it does not seem like the Belgian, given his post match comments, had any idea.
When pressed on the matter in the post match press conference, Broos’ main counter was “we are three points ahead,” which while true, had nothing to do with the matter being presented to him.
Bafana have done well under Broos, exceeding expectations by topping the group at this late stage. Yet this does not change the fact – and the same applied to Pitso Mosimane in 2011 – that the head coach of any national team should be well aware of the rules of the competition he is playing in.