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AFCON PLAYOFFS

Bafana Bafana out to tame Morocco’s Atlas Lions in crunch Afcon knockout

Bafana Bafana out to tame Morocco’s Atlas Lions in crunch Afcon knockout
Themba Zwane of South Africa is challenged by Aissa Bilal Laidouni of Tunisia during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on 24 January, 2024. (Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

It will be a mammoth undertaking. However, Bafana Bafana believe they can come away unscathed from their round of 16 battle with Africa Cup of Nations favourites Morocco.   

There’s a saying in sport about beating the best if you want to be the best. In the recently concluded Australian Open, tennis stars Jannik Sinner and Aryna Sabalenka navigated tough challenges in the form of Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff respectively on their way to overall victory.

When Bafana Bafana take on Morocco in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) round of 16 on Tuesday night, they will hope to add their own twist to the popular phrase.

The gap between the two teams could not be more of a contrast. South Africa is ranked 66th on the world rankings. By contrast, the Moroccans sit in 13th spot. On paper, the contest could not be more skewed.

Nevertheless, Bafana Bafana are riding high on the belief of head coach Hugo Broos that he can win another Afcon after achieving overall success with Cameroon seven years ago.

They are also buoyed by still being present at an Afcon which has been characterised by chaotic upsets.

Powerhouse countries such as Ghana, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and most recently, 2021 African champions Senegal, have had to pack their bags. Bafana are ambitious enough to believe that they can add Morocco to the list and secure a quarterfinal berth.

“It’s an important game for both teams. We are [at the stage] of the tournament where you either win or lose,” Bafana Bafana’s Belgian mentor said during his pre-match press conference.

Hugo Broos, Bafana

Hugo Broos, head coach of South Africa. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Africa Cup of Nations — all you need to know about the squads vying for continental glory

“We are aware of the difficult task that’s waiting for us in the game. Morocco is number one in Africa. They had a fantastic 2022 World Cup [where they] were fourth. So, it will be difficult,” continued the 71-year-old.

“But on the other side, this Afcon is full of surprises. We’ve seen in the last few weeks, how many big countries are already home. So, it’s possible in this Afcon.”

The two countries were in the same qualifying group for this Afcon. Morocco clinched the first match 2-1, but South Africa bounced back with the same result in the reverse fixture — played in June 2023.

That was the last time the two nations battled it out and the outcome of that contest will have South Africa believing they can upset the applecart. Even though that final encounter was a dead rubber as both countries had already qualified for the ongoing African football showpiece.

Overall, the two nations are almost evenly balanced when past results are taken into consideration. Bafana Bafana have beaten Morocco thrice while losing twice. Three matches have ended in stalemates.

Bilal El Khannouss of Morocco

Bilal El Khannouss of Morocco is challenged by Clatous Chama of Zambia during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on 24 January, 2024. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix)

Broos believes that if they navigate past the Morocco speed hump then the sky’s the limit for himself and his troops. The team will have to play a perfect game to tame the Atlas Lions, who came into the tournament as heavy favourites.

“We know that if we can [beat Morocco] we will take a big step towards what we all wanted — playing in the final and maybe winning it,” Broos stated.

“Everyone knows that the game is going to be difficult. But if we can bring our A game, we will be able to get the best result,” midfielder Siphephelo Sithole added.

The match will kick off at 10pm SA time, on Tuesday 30 January. Cape Verde awaits the winner of the crunch tie after they edged Mauritania 1-0 in their last-16 encounter on Monday. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Winston Bigsby says:

    Please! Bufoona Buffoona will be lucky to get a 0-0 draw. They can’t shoot for shit.
    Surely even the 71 year old coach can show them the correct technique for not blazing the ball over the crossbar every time?

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