Jonty Mark
Football Editor
3 minute read
31 Dec 2021
11:44 am

Football in 2021 review – Bafana’s near miss and Sundowns’ show of dominance

Jonty Mark

It was so close and yet so far for Hugo Broos' men in World Cup qualifying.

Percy Tau shows his devastation after Bafana Bafana are knocked out of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers by Ghana. Picture: Thabang Lepule/Backpagepix.

Bafana Bafana’s World Cup near miss and Mamelodi Sundowns’ continued dominance of the domestic game were the two main headlines of 2021 in South African football, though there was plenty more to talk about in an action-packed year that continued in spite of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.

Hugo Broos’ Bafana came within a whisker of making it to the play-offs for Qatar 2022, only a controversial penalty and a 1-0 defeat in Ghana in their final qualifier preventing South Africa from winning group G. A protest to Fifa over the performance of Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye and his assistants at the Cape Coast Stadium proved futile, and it is the Black Stars who will take their place in the play-offs.

For Broos and Bafana, there remains the encouragement of seeing a young squad, made up mainly of players from the DStv Premiership, performing superbly in qualifying, to the extent that they went into their final qualifier needing only a point to oust Ghana. The highlight was a 1-0 win over the Black Stars at FNB Stadium, Maritzburg United’s 21 year-old attacker Bongokuhle Hlongwane grabbing the winning goal.

Broos built his side on the back of a solid defence, with Sundowns’ Rushine De Reuck excelling, and South Africa did not concede a single goal from open play in six matches. Often, 13 points from those games would have been enough to win the group, but in the end, Bafana were edged out by Ghana on goals scored.

Bafana’s World Cup campaign was preceded by a performance from South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics that was less inspiring, though Covid-19 did play havoc with the preparations of David Notoane’s side. South Africa lost all three of their matches, to hosts Japan, France (in a thriller) and Mexico, to go out of the competition in the group stages, just as they did at Sydney 2000.

Banyana Banyana, meanwhile, suffered the disappointment of only finishing fourth at the Cosafa Women’s Cup, though they did hammer Mozambique to make it to the next round of qualifying for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Domestically, this was another year for Sundowns to celebrate, wrapping up a fourth DStv Premiership title in a row, in the end finishing 13 points clear of runners-up AmaZulu. Usuthu’s impressive campaign was enough for Benni McCarthy to win the Coach of the Season Award, and AmaZulu also did superbly to then reach the Caf Champions League group stages, on their first appearance in the competition.

Sundowns also made it into the group stages, while dominating the top flight again to the extent that they finished the year 14 points ahead of Orlando Pirates, this despite taking just one point from their last two league games. Masandawana also won the MTN8, taking down Cape Town City in the final.

Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila won the other piece of domestic silverware on offer in 2021, lifting the Nedbank Cup, after knocking Sundowns out on penalties in the semifinal, and then beating Chippa United 1-0 in the final.

Like the men, Mamelodi Sundowns’ Ladies team are the dominant force in their domestic football, winning the league yet again this year, while Jerry Tshabalala’s side also lifted the inaugural Women’s Caf Champions League.