Lessons For Sundowns
Editor's Blog: Lessons For Sundowns
Mamelodi Sundowns will come back from the FIFA Club World Cup having learned a number of lessons from their experience of playing at the highest club level, more so after their 2–0 loss to Japan’s Kashima Antlers.
While the Japanese outmuscled Ka Bo Yellow, no one can deny that the Chloorkop-based side created enough chances to win the game, especially in the first half. It was indeed a game of two halves, as the South African side dominated proceedings from the beginning, only to be let down by their finishing in the last third.
For SA football, poor finishing is nothing new and we continue to witness it week in and week out. This is one of the areas of our game that needs massive improvement, as we either make wrong choices due to panic, or take extra touches instead of finishing off the opportunities we get. The poor finishing in the PSL is highlighted by the fact that after 12 rounds of fixtures, with Sundowns having played only eight games, no team has hit the back of the net 20 times, with Tendai Ndoro – the only striker to have reached double figures – leading the goalscoring charts with 11 strikes! While Sundowns could get away with missing five and scoring two chances to win a game in the PSL, at international level, it is a completely different ball game altogether.
Kashima created almost nothing in the first half, but managed to convert two of their three chances created in the second half. Converting chances is something Sundowns can learn from their opposition. Be ruthless in front of goals because that’s what wins you games, not ball possession.
Another lesson for the Chloorkop-based outfit will be that aggression is so important at the highest level. When you compare our players’ approach to the game to their international counterparts, the gap is just unbelievable! That’s why the likes of Percy Tau, Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly, who usually mesmerize even the toughest defenders in the PSL, struggled to set the stage alight against the highly aggressive Antlers. It is common practice for a player to have all the time and space in the world when in possession in the PSL because almost no one cares to press the man on the ball quickly enough. Unlike in the National First Division, where pressing is the order of the day, things are much calmer in the elite division. It is not every day that we witness real aggression in the PSL, but Cape Town City’s Thato Mokeke proved on Saturday night against SuperSport United that aggression is a valuable weapon.
The utility player proved his quality against his former teammates when Onismor Bhasera tried to play out of his danger zone when defending against City. The “hospital pass” to Thuso Phala in the centre of the field was intercepted by Mokeke, who read the situation perfectly, latched onto the pass and beat Phala to the ball. It was not his speed of thought that stole the show, but the aggression with which he roughly, but fairly, beat Phala to the ball that initiated the Citizens’ attack. That tackle changed the game on its head for the Cape side. The ball fell kindly for Roland Putsche and the Austrian wasted no time in setting up Aubrey Ngoma on the edge of the opposition box, who took a few touches before slotting the ball across Reyaad Pieterse’s goal to hit the back of the bottom corner. That goal was a marvel to watch, as it exploited SuperSport’s slow defensive play with great aggression and pace.
The experience Coach Pitso Mosimane’s charges will gain from the Club World Cup is invaluable and will go a long way in shaping and exposing our players to the level of international football. We need more of our teams playing in these competitions in order to get them out of their comfort zones. The more we play games of this magnitude, the better our players and national team will perform at international level. Despite the disappointment of not reaching the semi-finals, Sundowns will come back from Japan with renewed energy and, hopefully, as a better team. And it all starts with taking continental football seriously and investing in it.
So good luck to the Brazilians for the 5th / 6th place play off against Jeonbuk Hyundai this morning (Wednesday).
Before I conclude, I must congratulate Coach Eric Tinkler and his charges for their history-making Telkom Knockout victory against SuperSport United. It was, as expected, an exciting game to watch. Congratulations also to Coach Thabo Senong for reaching the semi-finals of the 2016 Cosafa U20, unbeaten. It’s great to see local coaches showing their value.