Sport

AFCON QUARTERFINAL

Bafana Bafana must ride the momentum of their biggest win under Hugo Broos

Bafana Bafana must ride the momentum of their biggest win under Hugo Broos
Teboho Mokoena of Bafana Bafana celebrates his goal during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match against Morocco, at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Cote dIvoire on 30 January, 2024 (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix)

Bafana Bafana are still revelling in the joy of eliminating the intimidating Morocco from the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16. Next, they face a completely different challenge in the form of Cape Verde.

It’s been an arduous two-and-a-half years for Hugo Broos since he took over as Bafana Bafana coach. A position that seemed to be a poisoned chalice with coaches coming and going.

His masterminding of a 2-0 round of 16 victory which eliminated Morocco — who were heavy pre-tournament favourites prior to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) kicking off — is the highlight of his time in South Africa. So far.

Bafana Bafana put on a near-perfect tactical display and took their chances as a second-half goal from Orlando Pirates striker Evidence Makgopa and a world-class free-kick by midfield magician Teboho Mokoena in the dying embers of the game sent the Moroccans packing.

The No 1 ranked side on the African continent had their chances as well. However, they found a determined and resolute Bafana Bafana. Players such as centre-back pairing Mothobi Mvala and Grant Kekana put their bodies on the line at regular intervals to keep the Atlas Lions out.

As for Mokoena — he played like a man possessed as he covered every inch of the Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro.

His performance was already worthy of him being named player of the match. His sumptuous 95th-minute set-piece goal — which he scored 10 minutes after one of Morocco’s star players Achraf Hakimi had missed a penalty that would have levelled the match — crowned his magnificent performance.

Teboho Mokoena

Teboho Mokoena of Bafana Bafana shoots at goal. (Photo: EPA/Gavin Barker / BackpagePix)

A tale of two coaches

“I’m very happy… And it’s not because we’re in the quarterfinals. But beating a team like Morocco is something special. This is a very good team. With very good players. But we did the right analysis. The way we played, the tactics … It was the right way,” Broos told journalists in his post-match press conference.

When quizzed on how he and his players had managed to topple the intimidating Moroccans, Broos refused to take credit alone. He said his players — who moved in unison like Olympic synchronised swimmers during the historic match — deserved all the plaudits for sticking to the plan.

“I didn’t do it. The players did it. [My job is to] tell the players what they have to do. Every coach hopes what he tells the players is the right thing. Until now it’s been the right thing. But the players have also done what we’ve asked. They fought from the first minute. They played in a very disciplined [manner],” Broos stated.

“We have players like Themba Zwane, who has been player of the match two times [at this Afcon]. Today it was Teboho [who won player of the match]. That means that we are playing well as a team, but we also have some players who can make a difference. This is important,” the coach continued.

“There is no secret. It’s just working hard. The guys now are ready to do everything that I ask of them. They are training well… It makes a coach happy when you see that. Now the results are following. You cannot have results without hard work. And that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Morocco’s wait for a second Afcon title will continue a little bit longer. Since winning their maiden African crown in 1976 — the Atlas Lions have not managed to repeat the trick.

It was thought at this Ivory Coast-hosted 34th edition of the biennial showpiece, they would finally snap their drought. It was not to be.

“We fought until the end with our weapons. I am disappointed for our supporters, who deserved much better,” said Walid Regragui — who coached the Atlas Lions to a historic semifinal at the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

“I felt we were capable of bringing this cup home. But that didn’t happen. I hope my players will learn, especially the younger ones.”

Teboho Mokoena, Bafana

Teboho Mokoena of South Africa. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix)

The journey continues

Morocco joined 2021 Afcon champions Senegal, as well as heavyweights such as Egypt, Ghana, Tunisia and Algeria in catching a flight heading home earlier than they had anticipated.

Bafana Bafana, on the other hand, are still alive during a tournament that has been dubbed the ‘Afcon of the underdogs.’ They face Cape Verde in the quarterfinals on Saturday, 3 February. The match kicks off at 10pm.

Broos and his men will do well not underestimate the islanders. The Blue Sharks finished at the summit of a group with Egypt and Ghana. Countries that have won 11 Afcon trophies between them.

The former Portuguese colony — with an estimated population of just 600,000 — is also out to create its own history.

Victory against Bafana Bafana would see them reach the semifinals of Afcon for the first time in their history. Their previous best came when they were eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2013, during a tournament that was ironically hosted by South Africa. DM  

Bafana Bafana

Bafana Bafana celebrate during 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. (Photo: Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix)

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