Bafana Bafana players who watched the Nouakchott debacle unfold from the comfort of their lounges a year ago reckon it was a game the national team should have never lost.
The 3-1 humiliation brought into focus Shakes Mashaba’s selection criteria and lack of preparation for matches — a qualifier for a major tournament no less.
Tonight, the two sides meet tonight at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit in a match that has no bearing on making the 2017 Afcon in Gabon for Bafana (kickoff 7.05pm).
But for the visiting West Africans, it could still prove crucial with a win giving them an opportunity to progress as one the two best runners-up.
Mashaba has included seven Olympians from the U23 team that took part in the Rio Games to test whether they are made for this level of international football.
Defeat to Mauritania twelve months ago is still haunting the coach and clearly a few of the Bafana players, especially those who had not made the trip.
Earlier this week it was Thulani Hlatshwayo who said that result could have been better, and Ramahlwe Mphahlele joined the chorus yesterday prior to team’s final training session in Nelspruit.
Before their departure to Nouakchott last year, Bafana were expected to walk all over Gambia and Mauritania, with Cameroon the only side seen as a serious threat in their attempts to finish top of Group M and qualify for the Gabon showpiece.
What followed would not have been scripted as Mashaba made a few selection blunders, among them selecting a player who was technically clubless at the time and lacked match fitness in defender Siyabonga Zulu.
He was sent off in the first half.
The Bafana coach also did not know that the qualifier would be played on an artificial pitch, leaving his men disadvantaged from the first kick of the ball.
Tonight represents a chance to set the record straight: Bafana are “better” than Mauritania.
To prove they should not have drawn 0-0 with Gambia in the opener of the Afcon qualifiers, Mashaba picked ruthless side in the return leg and the minnows were put in their place.
Mauritania deserves no less.