AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS
It’s do or die for Bafana Bafana when they face Liberia in Monrovia
It won’t be easy to trump the Lone Stars on home soil — especially considering that Bafana Bafana failed to do so on their own turf.
Bafana Bafana were held to a shock 2-2 draw by Liberia last Friday. With the reverse fixture on Tuesday, and victory non-negotiable if they are to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, the team has to quickly dust itself off.
With South Africa leading by two unanswered goals and with 30 minutes of the match to see out, it seemed assured that Hugo Broos and his men would take a giant step towards qualifying for next January’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) showpiece in Ivory Coast.
The thread quickly unravelled though, akin to a poorly knitted sweater. Bafana Bafana’s poor game management left them exposed and embarrassed in front of decent home support at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
The Liberians scored twice in the last 22 minutes (including a last-gasp equaliser) to cancel out a first-half brace by Burnley striker Lyle Foster.
This sequence of events and how his team had yielded to the Liberian fightback, in spite of enjoying home advantage, was too much for Bafana’s Belgian boss Broos. He stormed off the pitch before the final whistle.
The 70-year-old then shirked his media duties, before upset journalists demanded that he come and address them, instead of his assistant Helman Mkhalele — whom Broos had initially sent in his place.
“I will not answer your questions. There is too much disappointment, too much frustration and too much anger in my body. If I say now what I think, it will not be nice,” Broos said when he finally arrived.
“I have always been ready in the past to answer your questions, even difficult questions. But I hope that you understand that today is very difficult for me.”
Then he stormed off again.
Angry and frustrated
The Belgian mentor has since apologised for his actions, saying his emotions were not at the right level to be able to field difficult questions from gathered journalists.
“I’m a human being and the emotions took control of me [after the result]. From my experience, when I feel like that, it’s better not to say anything. It was not right, but I hope people can understand why I took that decision,” Broos told the media department of the South African Football Association.
Broos said that he was disappointed because he had warned his players against complacency during his half-time team talk. The South Africans had missed a flurry of opportunities to fatten their lead before their calamitous collapse.
“When you see the game, it was clear that we were the better team. It was clear that we had a lot of chances. But it was clear that we also missed a lot of chances. In the last 30 minutes we lost control of the game,” said Broos.
He reaffirmed his commitment to the team and his belief that they can still qualify for the Afcon, despite yet another low for South African soccer.
“The most important thing now is that the players know I still believe in them,” Broos said.
“They must not believe that because I was frustrated, angry and disappointed [after the result], I don’t believe in the team. I believe in the team because I built it. I know it has good players, and I know this team is able to qualify for the Afcon,” he continued.
“If we can refill the batteries again for Tuesday — not just physically, but also mentally — then we have to come back with a positive result. I am sure of it,” he added.
The team missing out on qualifying for the Afcon a second time in a row would place Broos’s employment status under extreme doubt. When he replaced Molefi Ntseki (who failed to qualify for Afcon 2022) the Belgian said his mandate was to book the team a ticket to Ivory Coast, as well as the 2026 World Cup.
All this now hangs in the balance, as it will not be easy to trump the Lone Stars on home soil. Especially considering that Bafana Bafana failed to do so on their own turf. DM