BAFANA Bafana’s dreams of playing in the 2014 Fifa World Cup ended today with a 2-1 defeat against Ethiopia at a packed National Stadium in the capital Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia are now five points ahead of second-placed South Africa and cannot be overtaken even if they lose to Central African Republic (CAR) and South Africa beat Botswana in the last round of matches.
The East Africans will now proceed to the play–offs, of which the five winners will book a ticket to Brazil.
Gordon Igesund’s side put up a gallant fight but a combination of bad luck and some frustrating home team decisions which included feigning injuries as a time wasting gimmick and a hostile crowd, put paid to their dreams of getting to Brazil 2014.
But while they will fly home tomorrow knowing their dreams won’t be realised, this bunch of players should raise their heads high for having tried their best.
Despite fears of high altitude, it was Bafana who started and finished running harder than the hosts but it was just not their day.
The hosts, under a lot of weight of huge expectations from the vociferous crowd, started nervously, giving away two free-kicks within a minute.
But on the third minute, Khune was called into action to stop Bargicho Salahadin’s well taken header following a free-kick from outside the box.
Four minutes later Bafana were on the attack with Bernard Parker racing into the box before feeding the ball off to May Mahlangu whose effort went narrowly wide. Ten minutes later, Thuso Phala also had an effort missing the target as Bafana made a quick transition from defence into attack.
Khune was against called into action on the 16th minute when he brilliantly saved a Salahadin effort. Ethiopia keeper Jemal Tassew was then stung by a Parker shot on the 19th minute spilling off the drive but there were no takers from the rebound.
Then Parker’s header was cleared off the line following a corner-kick by Phala on 30th minute as South Africa piled the pressure looking for the opener.
But there was nothing the Ethiopian keeper could do three minutes later when Parker fired home a half volley as Bafana took a deserved lead. A trademark long clearance from Khune fell onto the path of Parker who responded with a first-time shot to silence the National Stadium.
It could have been 2-0 on 40th minute. A quick Bafana build-up set Reneilwe Letsholonyane free but the hardworking midfielder’s effort was too tame and was easily collected by the keeper.
That miss proved expensive as on the 43rd minute, Getaneh Kabede grabbed the equaliser from an acute angle after the Bafana defence had hesitated to clear the ball.
Bafana got the second half underway in the same purposeful fashion and when Thuso Phala was fouled just outside the box, a Tshabalala free-kick was blocked by the Ethiopian wall.
Bafana made their first change on the 51st minute with Tokelo Rantie coming on for Phala. Rantie almost made an immediate impact as he held off three Ethiopian defenders before firing but his effort was blocked for a corner.
On the 61st minute, Tshabalala’s effort could not beat the Ethiopian wall and a follow-up attack saw Mathoho’s header going just wide.
Bafana introduced Tlou Segolela on the 66th minute for Mahlangu to freshen up the attack but it was the hosts supporters who erupted into wild celebrations on the 70th minute following a free kick which was headed into an own net by Parker.
Bafana had a chance to level the score on the 75th minute after Rantie was brought down on the edge of the box but Tshabalala’s free-kick went narrowly wide. Katlego Mashego came on in place of Langerman on the 80th minute as Bafana pressed on for the elusive equaliser.
Ethiopia had a chance deep in stoppage time to wrap up the match when they capitalised on Bafana Bafana who had thrown every man upfront but Khune saved the day. Despite desperate attempts by Bafana in the dying minutes, Ethiopia held on for victory.
Bafana Bafana are scheduled to arrive home at13h30 aboard Ethiopian Airways on Monday, 17 June 2013.
Ethiopia: 22-Jemal Tassew, 4-Butako Abebaw, 5-Aynalem Hailu, 7-Bargicho Salahadin, 8-Asrat Gobena, 9-Getaneh Kebede, 12-Biyadiglign Zewg, 14-Menyahel Teshome, 17-Moges Ceuyon, 18-Shemeles Bekele (Gebryes Adane 57th), 20-Addis Hintsa.
South Africa: 16-Khune, 5-Ngcongca, 3-Langerman (Mashego 80th), 21-Mathoho, 4-Nthethe, 15-Furman, 12-Letsholonyane, 19-Mahlangu (Segolela 66th), 18-Phala (Rantie 51st), 8-Tshabalala, 17-Parker.
Referee: Farouk Mohamed.