Sport

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS

Let’s dance Bafana Bafana! A win needed against Namibia in crunch Afcon tie

Let’s dance Bafana Bafana! A win needed against Namibia in crunch Afcon tie
South Africa's Percy Tau comes up against Rodrigue Kossi of Benin at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on 18 November 2023. Tau believes 'we can do something special' at Afcon 2024. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

After losing their opening Africa Cup of Nations match to Mali, Bafana Bafana need a positive result against Namibia to boost their chances of making it to the round of 16.

South African sports teams are known for their love of song and dance. In France last year, the Springboks sang and shimmied their way to becoming the most successful Rugby World Cup team of all-time, with four titles.

In the same 2023 that the Boks rewrote history, women’s national soccer team Banyana Banyana did similar. They became the first senior national soccer side from South Africa to reach the knockout stage of a Fifa World Cup.

Throughout their time Down Under, Banyana captivated the world equally for their skills on the pitch, as they did for their dancing off it – while carrying around a boombox that exuded some of South Africa’s hottest Amapiano tunes.

Dance Bafana, dance

Our senior soccer team Bafana Bafana is currently in Ivory Coast for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, which kicked off on 13 January, and concludes on 11 February. Of course, they’ve been singing and dancing too.

Unlike their counterparts – the Boks and Banyana – their festive spirit has yet to channel into a positive result on the field. In spite of a first-half showing where they danced circles around their opponents Mali but wasted numerous scoring chances. 

They were made to pay for that profligacy. Mali turned the tables in the second stanza and eventually walked away as 2-0 victors.

“We know what we need to do better and [we know] what lies in front of us. It is not the start that we had wanted or set ourselves up for. But it is a result we now have to stomach,” midfielder Teboho Mokoena said, when reflecting on that defeat to Mali.

But as late American pop star Aaliyah sang before her untimely death at just 22 years in 2001: “If at first you don’t succeed, then dust yourself off and try again.”

Teboho Mokoena, Bafana

Teboho Mokoena of South Africa. (Photo by Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images)

Moonwalking Namibian team

Bafana Bafana has an opportunity to do just that on Sunday, 21 January against Southern African neighbours Namibia. It won’t be an easy match. The Brave Warriors are currently moonwalking smoother than Michael Jackson, after shooting down Tunisia’s Eagles of Carthage.

A solitary goal in that game, scored by Orlando Pirates winger Deon Hotto was enough to clip Tunisia’s wings as the Namibians earned their maiden Afcon victory with the win 1-0 result. They had failed to win in three previous appearances at Africa’s biennial soccer spectacle.

Broos Bafana

Hugo Broos, coach of South Africa with Teboho Mokoena. (Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

Beat thy neighbour

South Africa and Namibia last met in September 2023, in a match that ended in a 0-0 stalemate in Orlando, Soweto.

However, according to Portugal-based Bafana Bafana midfielder Sphephelo Sithole, a win will be integral to the team’s ambitions of making it out of Group E.

Sphephelo Sithole of Bafana

Sphephelo Sithole of Bafana Bafana. (Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

  

“The next game against Namibia is a must-win. We have to win it, because a positive result means that our chances are better,” he said. “So, for me we have to win. For me we have to win every game.”

After the Mali game, South Africa’s head coach Hugo Broos said he would stress to his players that they should play the same way they played in the first half of that match. Minus the poor finishing in front of goal.

Mali, Bafana

Yves Bissouma of Mali (left) reacts as he makes a pass to Aliou Dieng during their Africa Cup of Nations clash. (Photo: MB Media/Getty Images)

Broos may also shuffle his deck upfront and bring in someone such as Mihlali Mayambela or Zakhele Lepasa. The duo started on the bench, with the coach opting for the strength of Evidence Makgopa instead.

Whoever plays, the message is clear from Mokoena: “We just need to be clinical. If we get one chance, we [must] score and close the game.” DM

South Africa vs Namibia play on Sunday, 21 January. Kick-off is at 10pm SA time.

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