Bafana Bafana head coach Joel Santana lavished praise on his players on arrival at the OR Tambo Airport early on Sunday morning after his charges defied the elements to score a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea in Malabo on Saturday to end their 2010 African Nations Cup qualifying campaign.

It was Bafana’s first away win in two years – almost to the day on October 8, 2006 Bafana scored their first even against Zambia in Lusaka when an Aaron Mokoena goal gave the South Africans victory in a 2008 Afcon qualifier.

The win over Equatorial Guinea was enough to see Bafana finish runners up to Nigeria in Group Four but too little too late as Bafana with seven points from their six qualifying matches failed to gain a spot in the final qualifying round for Angola in 2010. That means that Bafana will not be playing in the biennial tournament to be staged in Angola in 2010.

But there was comfort for under fire Santana after this gutsy victory under appalling conditions.

Said Santana: “The players deserve a lot of credit. They showed tremendous character and fighting spirit. They faced an unplayable pitch, which was made worse by the overnight rain and that made the bumpy field even heavier and more difficult to play on. The heat and humidity were also unbearable.

But the boys stuck to their task and came home with a really good win. ” Santana said he was likely to keep the same starting line-up when Bafana host star studded Ghana in a friendly international at Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium on Wednesday.