Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ethiopia switch a major blow - Igesund

Fifa's decision to switch the crucial World Cup qualifying game between Ethiopia and Central African Republic from CAR's stronghold in Bangui to neutral Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, is a major blow for South Africa, said Gordon Igesund on Friday.

The Bafana coach said they were relying on Ethiopia either drawing or losing for South Africa to remain in the running for next year's tournament in Brazil.

"Unfortunately, we are not the masters of our own fate going into our last game – with Ethiopia holding a two point advantage over us right now," Igesund said.

"The switch in venue works strongly in their favour."

The change in venue was a major boost for Ethiopia, who would ensure entry into the final stage of the African World Cup qualifying by beating CAR.

At the same time, it would prove a death knell for Bafana's prospects -no matter what the result in their final group qualifying game against Botswana, played simultaneously in Durban on September 7.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the political unrest in the CAR forced Fifa to switch the venue as they did when Bafana played CAR away.

Fifa moved the game to neutral Yaounde, in the Cameroon, and Bafana won the match 3-0 instead of confronting CAR in Bangui where the home side had not been beaten in years.

In addition, Fifa had decided the final African World Cup qualifying round, in which 10 group winners would compete on a home-and-away basis for five places in Brazil, would be based on a seeding system.

Based on their current world ranking of 67th, Bafana would not receive one of the five seedings even if they overcame the Ethiopian hurdle, with their potential opponents in the final showdown quite likely coming from formidable teams like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia and Algeria.

"World Cup qualification has always been an uphill battle." said Igesund.

"Right from the time I took over, after Bafana had already dropped four points they should have amassed from the
home draw against Ethiopia and a second draw against Botswana.

"Despite two of our last three qualifying games being staged away from home, we've done well to claim six more points.

"Now all we can do is concentrate on earning three more points against Botswana at the Moses Mabhida Stadium - and hold thumbs that the switch to Brazzaville does not help Ethiopia to a win over CAR."