Bafana boss Hugo Broos ‘satisfied’ with the work he has done over the past two years
South Africa’s senior men’s soccer side is gearing up for a litmus-test encounter against heavyweights of African soccer – Morocco. Coach Hugo Broos is hoping the tie serves as a platform to showcase progress made under his watch.
Bafana Bafana’s Belgian boss, Hugo Broos, believes he has all but found his winning formula. There will be no better barometer for the strength of this hypothesis than Africa’s first Fifa World Cup semifinalists – Morocco.
The two nations meet in an Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Johannesburg on Saturday, 17 June.
Both teams have already sealed their spots at the continental showpiece – which takes place in Ivory Coast from January 2o24. So, the match is in essence an exhibition.
“They played in the semifinals of the World Cup. So, for us to put up a challenge will give us a clear picture of how far we are and how ready we are for Afcon,” said Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Ronwen Williams last month.
Though, if Morocco were to somehow lose to both South Africa and the other Group K member – Liberia – Bafana Bafana would finish first in the three-nation group. With seven points to Morocco’s six.
Motivation enough for Broos and his men to go for broke at FNB Stadium on Saturday evening. Then hope for a massive miracle from the soccer gods when the Atlas Lions square off against the Lone Stars in September.
South Africa’s senior men’s soccer side is back at Afcon once more after missing the 2022 edition in Cameroon.
In recent years Bafana Bafana’s overall track record in terms of qualifying for the showpiece they won 1996 – under Clive Barker’s shrewd tutelage – reads like a bad report card.
In addition to missing out last year, the team also failed to qualify in 2010, 2012 and 2017. In 2019, they made it to the quarterfinals after vanquishing hosts Egypt.
After the failure of not being among the participants in Cameroon last year – overseen by Molefi Ntseki – it was Broos who was entrusted with rebuilding the team.
I hope that people understand that I had a goal when I started here. And little by little I’m achieving that goal.
The Belgian was officially appointed in May 2021. The South African Football Association (Afcon) undoubtedly hoped he would repeat the trick he managed as the coach of a transitioning and youthful Cameroon national team. He guided the Cameroonians to 2017 Afcon glory.
After chopping and changing his squad selections for some time, the 71-year-old coach feels he has the core group of players who he trusts can compete against Morocco this weekend, as well as in Ivory Coast next year.
“The boys were there. But they didn’t really understand what I wanted. But now I have a group that I feel will do what I say or ask. That they will try to do it,” Broos told Safa’s media department ahead of the Morocco clash.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Bafana qualify for Afcon, but they’re not a patch on ‘yester-heroes’
“They (his selections) are very competitive. They want to play. They want to be in the team. And that’s something you see [in our training sessions].”
“It’s been something that I wanted from the beginning. But the search was a little bit longer than I expected. But now I feel I have the players with whom I go on working with,” Broos added.
Room for improvement
Bafana sealed this rare Afcon qualification the hard way. Though external circumstances had made it a bit easier for them.
Zimbabwe – which was the fourth nation in Group K – were booted from the qualifiers due to government interference with the national soccer association.
With Morocco the undisputed favourites in the group, it meant South Africa just had to beat minnows Liberia to qualify. They played the double header against the West Africans in March and were held to a stalemate on home soil.
With their backs against the wall upon arrival in Monrovia four days after the surprise 2-2 draw in Johannesburg, Broos and his men had to dig deep in front of a hostile home crowd. They did, edging the Liberians 2-1.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Bafana Bafana seal Africa Cup of Nations berth after beating Liberia
Yes, it was “just Liberia”. But the South Africans still showed character to see the job through after the hiccup in the reverse fixture. They will need such resilience tenfold if they are to secure a statement win against the Moroccans.
“The progression is there. But we still need to achieve some things and progress more in some aspects. But we can do it. Because nearly always you have the same players. You know what they can do. You know where they can still improve,” Broos stated.
“I hope that people understand what we’ve been doing for the last two years. And that they understand that I had a goal when I started here. And little by little I’m achieving that goal. This is something that satisfies me.” DM
Bafana Bafana squad
Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams, Veli Mothwa, Ricardo Goss
Defenders: Sydney Mobbie, Siyanda Xulu, Innocent Maela, Nkosinathi Sibisi, Thapelo Morena, Aubrey Modiba, Grant Kekana, Mothobi Mvala
Midfielders: Luke Le Roux, Njabulo Blom, Teboho Mokoena, Bathusi Aubaas
Forwards: Monnapule Saleng, Themba Zwane, Cassius Mailula, Mihlali Mayambela, Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Percy Tau, Zakhele Lepasa, Thapelo Maseko