With the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations rapidly approaching, the race for qualification is heating up. 44 African nations were drawn into eleven groups, each containing 4 teams. The top team in each group will represent their nation in the 2012 Africa Cup beginning January 21.
So far five teams have qualified for this tournament.
As host countries, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea automatically qualified. Botswana secured their qualification in March, making this their first appearance in the Africa Cup. Powerhouses, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal have also qualified and should be tough competition for any opponent. Burkina Faso is the latest team to be added to the official tournament roster by qualifying on September 3.
Pitso Mosimane, coach of the South Africa national football team, will face challenges narrowing down players to include in Bafana Bafana’s first match of the season next Wednesday against Burkina Faso. Mosimane will name his team on Tuesday. Players will be selected on the basis of reputation and experience. The timing of hosting the first international friendly in early August presents complications for players who must return early to their home countries from vacationing abroad. Further complications include player movements and transfers. Mosimane hinted last week that he will select players Steven Pienaar and Kagisho Dikgacoi for the match against Burkina Faso. Mosimane will need to assemble the strongest team possible, because next week’s friendly is Bafana’s only confirmed fixture before a match against Niger which could qualify South Africa for next year’s finals in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon. Bongani Khumalo can also be expected to play in the upcoming match. A further concern for Mosimane is the mental state of players Tsepo Masilela and Kat-lego Mphela. Masilela’s deal with English Championship side Leicester City fell through, while Mphela failed trials at Glasgow Celtic over the weekend.
Next week’s match comes two days before the official start of Absa Premiership. Mosimane must decide whether to include players Andile Jali, Tlou Segolela and Moeneeb Josephs since they will be preparing for their club’s upcoming fixture.
Bafana Bafana have dropped two places from their previous 47th position in the latest FIFA world rankings released this week. Pitso Mosimane’s team, however, maintained their seventh position on the continent, making them one of the seeded teams for the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw to be held in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday. As a seeded side for the tournament Bafana will avoid the top ten-ranked powerhouses on the continent: Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Algeria, and Tunisia. “The South American teams have accumulated points over the past month thanks to the Copa America tournament which helped them make strides, while we were inactive. This shows that is important to keep on playing to stand a better chance of improving on our rankings. Now it becomes crucial that we qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations tournament and go as far as we can to help us also climb higher,” said Pitso Mosimane. The 2012 Africa cup of Nations will be co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon who have both already qualified to the finals along with Botswana. The cup will allow a great opportunity for African teams to advance in the FIFA world rankings depending on their success. Bafana’s next opponents, Burkina Faso, have also dropped two places to 39th in the world but remain fourth on the continent. Spain remains top of the world rankings, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil and Uruguay. The next rankings will be released on August 24.
Bafana Bafana will take on Burkina Faso on August 10 at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. Kick-off is at 8:15pm.