Ernst Middendorp praises Bafana Bafana's AFCON qualification as progressive for PSL

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Bafana’s last-gasp attempt at qualification for the continental showpiece in June had many supporters riled by their failure to secure their spots at the 24-team tournament sooner, notably mentioning the costly draw away to Seychelles last year.

However, a spirited victory under strenuous circumstances in Tunisia saw the national team overcome Libya in a highly tactical display set out by coach Stuart Baxter and qualify with 12 points from their six matches played.

Despite this, the qualification was still met with discontent from factions of the public as they downplayed the achievement of the team prior to the main event in Egypt, leaving Middendorp to question this sort of thinking.

“Who the hell, what are we thinking automatically [Bafana deserve to qualify]? You have Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, whatever,” Middendorp noted.

“Of course, what is now – tell me – at the end of a qualification where Nigeria have 13 points and South Africa have 12 points. What are we talking about?

“It’s a very clear, structured qualification, and we can’t sit there and say, ‘Ah, we are here in this moment and [qualification] should have been done after two games – we should have already had 14 points. It’s impossible, so now be a little bit humbler.”

Nonetheless, the German tactician believes the qualification itself is a motivation to players across the league to lift their respective performances in order to raise their hands for a spot on the national squad.

“I think it’s a huge parameter for progress ; it’s a huge parameter [in terms of] what you send with qualification, not only to players like Rama [Mphahlele], even Itu Khune wants to be part of it – doing everything to be prepared, but I don’t know if there will be enough time for him,” he said.

“But also, other players like Cardoso – he wants to keep being part of this. And something to work towards for young players – I saw players like Luther Singh, Jamie Webber, who’s a talented and qualified midfielder, unfortunately not playing at SuperSport United – to be part of AFCON and qualifying in future for the target of going to Qatar World Cup.

“It’s immense, and we have to understand as the PSL and clubs that we need a functional and very good national team qualifying for all these big tournaments.”