Watching Saturday night's Bafana date with the Algerians, it was not really that cosy romantic outing, as rubbery as it was. The hosts flirted well but the Arabs did not buy it. South Africa managed to dig deeper into a cocky situation that is desperate. Precisely, when it mattered, they failed to hit the spot.
As hosts, they have a free ticket to the tournament as well as having a new coach in Gordon Igesund, a few warm-up matches old already, the expectations of doing well on the basis of the latest shows sends chills down my spine. They played a goalless warm-up match against the North Africans ranked second on the continent after their loss to Norway just days ago.
A draw following a loss is an improvement. Referees being less sympathetic following SAFA 'match-fixing scandals' make it an uphill task for the home country. While there were deserved penalty situation, the officials looked the other way. The bottom line, Bafana failed to do what championship contenders do; to convince themselves, the officials and the crowd that they are championship material.
For that to happen, Katlego Mashego and Tokello Rantjie have to score and not just once. They must do better than their displays so far. Bernard Parker, again, Shabba and Yeye must be more creative and ruthless.
The midfield has to work hard to close down attacks and make Bafana very hard to beat while being creative to open up opposition. There is not much time to sort that out. Judging by the recent inconsistency, playing the next six matches without a loss does not sound realistic and that would be fatal for the local game. Actually, scoring a goal in the next match is but a hope.
It is no brainer that the game of football presents us with similar supernatural trends in leagues and sometimes globally over certain weekends. One weekend or so in a year, we get all fixtures drawn, some weekends there are huge scores and in others, the ball just won't get into the net.
There are single matches that we witness and one gets assured that they will never produce a goal even if played for the duration of our lifetime. At least with Bafana, they threaten more with every match. Thinking like Igesund, a man does not enter the arena and climax, or should not. This patriotic optimism is built on emotion and hope.
When facing journalists, the coach puts up a brave face and assures the nations that 'cometh the moment, cometh Bafana'. Behind closed doors and in the dressing room, I guess he is banging the doors and keeping the water bottles, curses and swears. With clenched fists, he pounds the walls and rants his garments. What the team needs to do now, is to save him the blushes. Bafana must play to appease him. They may not have it in their feet and brains, but then, it must come from the heart.
As a football loving nation known for spectacular stadium shows and passion, they owe it to the fans. Following a mind blowing 2012 South Africa Fifa World Cup display on and off the pitch, the impromptu Africa Cup of Nations presents an opportunity for a better spectacle, again, on and off the pitch.
The difference is how the run-up to the tournament was positive then and lacklustre now. It was bigger nations then and smaller ones now. It was Carlos Alberto Perreira then and Igesund now. It was a mediocre run then and it will be better now.
A few days before meeting Carpe Verde in the opening match of the tournament, the South African hitmen are aware their preparation are nothing if they are linient and goal shy. There are no prizes for guessing that their priority will be to hit that goal spot. Ayihlomi' hlasele!