What does the 2018 have in store for Bafana Bafana?
Bafana Bafana will effectively not get going until September this year when the qualifiers for the African Nations Cup finals resume.
The expansion of the size of the finals means qualification should be a plain sailing.
The year 2018 does not promise to be too difficult for the national team and offers a chance to put aside the difficulties and personality clashes that bedevilled them in 2017.
South Africa‚ already with an away win in Nigeria under their belt‚ must finish in the top two of Group E to book a place in the 2019 finals to be held midyear in either Cameroon or Morocco.
That is still some 18 months away‚ so there is plenty time to turn around the team after a horror 2017 in which they blew a strong World Cup qualification opportunity with a series of rubbish results.
Stuart Baxter’s first opportunity to get his players together will be in March during the next international window but just who South Africa are playing remains unclear since the postponement of the Nations Cup qualifiers.
The window is now open for friendly matches and were the South African Football Association as efficient as they like to portray themselves‚ they would be offering Bafana’s services as a scrimmage opponents for those World Cup-bound countries who have been drawn in the same group with an African country at the tournament.
Argentina‚ Belgium‚ Croatia‚ England‚ Iceland‚ Portugal‚ Russia‚ Spain and Uruguay must all be in the market but many of them have already fixed themselves up with March friendlies.
The old adage of ‘you snooze‚ you lose’ springs to mind.
In May‚ the Cosafa Castle Cup will be played at the end of the Premier Soccer League season and could afford Baxter the opportunity to pick a decent strength squad rather than the rag-tag group that usually goes to the annual southern African Championship.
The venue for the tournament is still to be determined.
March’s postponed Nations Cup qualifier against Libya is now to be played in September followed a month later by home and away games against the tiny Seychelles.
Then South Africa will take on Nigeria at home on November 18 by which time they will have hoped to have ensured their place at the 2019 finals.
The Nations Cup have been increased in size which means that the top two finishers from each of the 12 qualifying group advance to the finals tournament.