Though set to be seeded second for the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualification draw tonight, Bafana Bafana cannot afford to take progression to the next stage as a given.
The draw to group the 40 African countries into groups of four from which the top two sides in each will advance to the following phase takes place at the CAF headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.
Coach Molefi Ntseki is eager to become only the third coach to lead Bafana to the global spectacle following Clive Barker and Carlos Quieros, who booked th country tickets to France 98 and South Korea/Japan 2002 respectively.
But he admits it is going to be a tall ask to qualify for Qatar.
“The World Cup qualifiers are more of a marathon than a sprint. We know there are going to be very tough matches and we will have to be thoroughly prepared for whoever we draw.”
While he is fairly new to the senior national team head coaching job, Ntseki has been around long enough to know that seedings do not matter much.
“We’ve got 40 teams and the top 10 ranked nations will be the top seeds. We are 13th and will thus be among the second seeds so we will play any of those top seeds plus the others below us (in rankings) But now of late, there’s no such thing as small footballing nations. All the nations are working very hard to do well.”
It is for that reason that he will instil in his team the sense that no opposition should be taken for granted.
“The respect you’ll give to Tunisia, Ghana and Nigeria is the same respect you have to give to Namibia. It is the same respect that you have to give to Malawi because all of them deserve to be in the top 40. They all want to qualify for the World Cup.”
But what would he consider a favourable group for Bafana?
“A good draw? We are going to be in a group of four teams where we will have to work hard and profile the opposition accordingly.
"We need to do well so that we can go into the top 20 then the top 10 and thereafter the top five that goes to the finals. “
In 1998, they qualified for their maiden World Cup in France under the tenure of Barker but we’re led by Frenchman Phillippe Troussier there. The last time Bafana managed to quality for the World Cup was back in 2002 via Quieros who, like Barker was fired before the tournament and replaced by Jomo Sono for the finals.
Stuart Baxter failed to steer the country to qualification for Germany 2006 as well as Russia 2018.
Gordon Igesund was in charge when the country failed to book a ticket to Brazil 2014.