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AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS

Bafana Bafana progress to Afcon knockouts after drab draw with Tunisia

Bafana Bafana progress to Afcon knockouts after drab draw with Tunisia
Evidence Makgopa of South Africa challenged by Hamza Rafia of Tunisia during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between South Africa and Tunisia at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on 24 January 2024. (Photo: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix)

Bafana Bafana are into the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 after holding a desperate Tunisia side to a 0-0 draw during their final group game.

A drab 0-0 draw between South Africa and Tunisia saw the former progress to the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), while Tunisia were sent packing from the tournament.

The stalemate was a result of two teams that seemed more intent on not losing, rather than winning. Large chunks of the battle, which took place at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo, were fought in a congested midfield.

For South Africa, that mentality was marginally more conducive. A draw was enough to see them move on to the next round. Heading into the encounter, coach Hugo Broos had hinted at a cautious approach, especially with the number of shock results seen at the tournament to date.

“Things can change any second in this Afcon … It is very dangerous because you feel comfortable one moment and then the next you are out,” the Belgian coach stated.

It seems he cautioned his players against being overzealous against a Tunisia side which knew that nothing but victory would extend their stay in Ivory Coast.

Bafana Bafana hardly created any notable opportunities as they focused their powers on remaining compact in the face of the Tunisian bulldozer that was trying to knock them down.

Achouri Elyes Elias of Tunisia challenged by Sphephelo Sithole of South Africa during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between South Africa and Tunisia at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on 24 January 2024. (Photo: Mehrez Toujani / BackpagePix)

Percy Muzi Tau of South Africa challenged by Anis Ben Slimane of Tunisia during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between South Africa and Tunisia at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on 24 January 2024. (Photo: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix)

Themba Zwane of South Africa challenged by Aissa Bilal Laidouni of Tunisia during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between South Africa and Tunisia at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on 24 January 2024. (Photo: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix)

The South Africans were successful in this endeavour. But, as a result, the team’s offensive prowess was non-existent, save for a few moments of magic engineered by the twinkle-toed Themba Zwane.

Bafana Bafana did not register their first shot on target until just after the 70th minute. Then they came alive as they tried to sucker-punch the Eagles of Carthage, who were slowly losing any hope of a victory and had all but accepted their fate by the time the final whistle went.

“We are prepared to play intelligently and with more intensity. We need to show a reaction, we have experienced players who know how to emerge from this situation,” Tunisia’s coach Jalel Kadri said before the match.

However, the display against Bafana was anything but intelligent or intense. It was lethargic — which is how the 2004 African champions’ campaign in Ivory Coast has been overall.

Kadri may now find himself without a job. This Afcon has already seen Ghana, Algeria and Ivory Coast fire their coaches after poor displays.    

With South Africa finishing second in Group E, with four points to Mali’s five, Broos’ job is safer than a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch. The 71-year-old’s pursuit of a second Afcon title is alive, but it will only get tougher from here.

South Africa came into the match chasing back-to-back victories at Afcon for the first time since the 2000 edition. It was not to be.

In the knockouts they will have to play as amazingly as they did when they drubbed Namibia 4-0 in their penultimate group game.

A performance like the one they had against Tunisia may not be good enough to see them progress deeper into the tournament. 

Bafana and Mali are joined by Namibia in the knockouts, who will qualify as one of the four top-three finishers after they held the Eagles of Mali to a draw in their final game. DM

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  • James Baxter says:

    Thank God Namibia is coming with us to the knockout stage. Hugo Bros has been very wonderful with Bafana, hopefully he stays with the boys for the next three to five years for world cup qualifiers. As an armchair coach, I would advise that our number 10, should be the focus of our attacking play, he is very effective with the ball but he has no options in the final third. He is our talisman and be given more passes in the knockout stages, otherwise our campaign is in peril if he is not used effectively

  • Gavin Hillyard says:

    Bafana is a team of men of small stature that cannot score(many/any) goals and are too short to defend the goal area. No wonder they get nowhere. Ranked 62nd in the world and 12th in Africa, they do not make me hopeful of further progress in CAF, or qualifying for the next World Cup in 2026. This is the current state of affairs after winning CAF 1996 and a world ranking of 16th under Clive Barker. As Athenkosi Tsotsi said, “Frail, diminitive players have set the standard of SA football back. They have no physical strength or aerial presence”. Perhaps Rassie can help?

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