No one expected it but the reality is that Bafana Bafana were held to a goalless draw by Seychelles in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Victoria yesterday.
Everything pointed to a Bafana win in the Indian Ocean island, but it wasn’t to be just four days after they trounced The Pirates 6-0 at FNB Stadium.
The locals were predicting a Bafana win and even Seychelles coach Gavin Jeanne had a look of a man who had thrown in the towel before his teams got on the field, telling Sowetan that “you guys must take it easy on us”.
Not that anybody can blame him, because he didn’t even have enough substitutes on the bench, with six instead of the usual seven.
During the initial stages, the home crowd even clapped when their players won the ball; that’s how much it meant for them to see their team show some fight.
They soon realised that their players were not just going to roll over. Bafana raised expectations with two corners in the first three minutes, but struggled to create any real opportunities in the first half.
Dino Ndlovu fired wide just after half an hour but it was the home side’s Nigel Hoarem who threatened with a cross before the break, which keeper Itumeleng Khune collected.
You could almost count the number of fans at the stadium, probably around 2 000, but the longer the match went on without Seychelles conceding, the louder they sounded, and the more their players grew in confidence.
Lebogang Mothiba failed to silence them when his attempt crashed against the crossbar at the start of the second half from a cross by Ndlovu.
Mothiba could have redeemed himself moments later, but shot tamely at goalkeeper Jerome Dingwall. Substitute Aubrey Modiba fired wide on 69 minutes and Dean Furman’s shot was saved later on. When Modiba missed with a header towards the end, the writing was on the wall.
And so it was that a nation ranked 189th in world football – and with a population of under 100 000 – managed a draw (as big as a win for them) against a country ranked 73rd.
If anything, this probably feels like a loss for SA and qualifying for the Afcon in Cameroon is no longer guaranteed. Meanwhile, Nigeria took control of Group E when they beat Libya 3-2 in Tunisia last night. Bafana host The Super Eagles next month and Libya away early next year.