No matter how you look at Bafana Bafana’s provisional Afcon squad, there are a number of unlucky buggers who are going to get axed.
There has been a lot of debate, whether it’s praise or criticism, of coach Stuart Baxter’s selections.
Given that it’s a 30-man group, some fans and pundits reckon that this squad is good enough to go all the way in Egypt when the action kicks off next month.
But by then Baxter will only have 23. What’s that saying about chickens and counting again?
Most of the negativity has been aimed in Baxter’s attempts to import a couple of European-based rookies for an all-African tournament.
The defensive duo of Joel Untersee and Nikola Tavares have already been written off as Johnny Come Latelys, with no experience of the competitive conditions or the team environment.
Joburg-born Untersee may have had his football education at Juventus and been a Swiss youth international, but at the age of 25 he is yet to play for the senior side.
Then there is Tavares who was born in Cape Town 20 years ago. He is doing well for Crystal Palace’s U23 side and has played youth football for Croatia.
But Baxter is still working to get them to even be eligible to wear the Gold and Green, so let’s just leave them out of the equation.
And because they are both defenders, that leaves Baxter with only seven backline options, where he unfortunately has Thami Mkhize as his only natural rightback.
That means all of the current defenders are safe, but that lack of regular fullbacks could come back to bite him.
Three goalkeepers must go to the tournament, so now we can look at who else will get the chop.
First to go is the big Dutch-born striker. Baxter has been toying with idea of having a physically-imposing target man up front for the likes of Percy Tau and other inside forwards can play off.
He would also be an aerial threat. But it’s a gamble that Baxter seems scared to take, given that Veldwijk has been in the setup for quite some time.
And it just wouldn’t make sense for the boss to decide to roll the dice at Afcon. Consistency has been his watch word for the qualifying campaign.
Makaringe has been rewarded for his heroics at Maritzburg in the last two years.
It’s a shame he hasn’t had a stable coaching setup there. Dangling this carrot in front of a guy who will be desperate to put himself in the shop window in Egypt could motivate him big time.
Too bad for him then that he is competing for SA Footballer of the Year Thembinkosi Lorch for a spot on the left flank.
Only one of these manne will go with Baxter up to his neck in wide attacking options.
The Orlando Pirates anchorman must be looking at the likes of Tiyani Mabunda, Dean Furman and Hlompo Kekana and thinking he will never make it to Afcon.
I doubt that Baxter will pick him ahead of this experienced trio.
And having those three players bringing their own skills, with a Sundowns combination to boot, harties Motshwari.
Keagan Dolly/Kermit Erasmus
One of these left-footed players is set for an early return to his club’s preseason next term.
Dolly has had a quiet season in France with Montpellier.
The former Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns winger has asked for more game time at the Cosafa Cup to sharpen up for the Afcon tournament.
But it also feels like the game has moved passed him in SA, with the man replacing him at Sundowns having impressed in Europe.
Bafana Bafana main man Tau is the player who operates in those spaces off the right and he has made it his own.
And anyone who thinks they can displace him there, will have to prove it on the pitch.
Kermit, with three goals for Cape Town City since January, will understand.
Ah Ben10. Bongani Zungu. What a talent. But like his nickname Ben10 suggests, this guy has struggled to grow up.
His game hasn’t developed as expected when he moved to Europe two seasons ago.
And with so much attacking talent in midfield, Zungu will have to pull out all the stops in camp to win a spot.
With Kamohelo Mokotjo, Thulani Serero and Sibusiso Vilakazi all capable of playing in the spaces between the opposition midfield and defence, it’s tjokvol where Zungu wants to be.