Sport

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS

Bafana put on magnificent team display to eliminate Morocco from Afcon

Bafana put on magnificent team display to eliminate Morocco from Afcon
Evidence Makgopa of South Africa celebrates his goal with teammates during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Morocco and South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, 30 January 2024. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

Goals from striker Evidence Makgopa and midfield maestro Teboho Mokoena secure Bafana Bafana a 2-0 victory over Morocco in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

Bafana Bafana’s Evidence Makgopa – who had come in for regular stick from South African football fans due to his lack of goals – opened the scoring with a composed finish on 57 minutes in San Pedro, Ivory Coast.

There were fears that the goal might be ruled out for offside. However, the video assistant referee quickly ratified the goal. Handing South Africa a surprise, but deserved lead.

Falling behind forced the Atlas Lions to up their tempo. After minutes of toiling and knocking on the South African door, they broke it down. Or so it seemed. 

South Africa fans during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Morocco and South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, 30 January 2024. (Photo: Weam Mostafa / BackpagePix)

Evidence Makgopa of South Africa scores as Ghanem Romain Saiss and Yassine Bounou of Morocco look on during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Morocco and South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, 30 January 2024. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

Morocco won a penalty with five minutes of regulation time remaining, after the ball struck the arm of Mothobi Mvala at close range. However, Paris Saint-Germain star Achraf Hakimi struck the woodwork. 

They would rue that missed opportunity as South Africa doubled their lead through a sumptuous free kick from Teboho Mokoena minutes later. Game. Set. Match. 

Bafana came into the match 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 held the ambition that they could add Morocco to the list and secure a quarterfinal berth. They did.

Achraf Hakimi of Morocco collides with Mothobi Mvala of South Africa after getting his pass away during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Morocco and South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, 30 January 2024. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

Muzi Tau of Bafana Bafana kicks the ball

Percy Muzi Tau of South Africa challenges Achraf Hakimi of Morocco during 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Morocco and South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, 30 January 2024. (Photo: Weam Mostafa / BackpagePix)

Bafana Bafana vs Morocco in Afcon Cup

Aubrey Maphosa Modiba of South Africa challenges Youssef En-Nesyri of Morocco during 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Morocco and South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, 30 January 2024. (Photo: Weam Mostafa / BackpagePix)

First stanza foundation 

Bafana Bafana began well and showed the value of teamwork as the players fought for each other when the Moroccan machine created spaces in the team’s compact defensive line. 

The result was the first stanza ending with the Atlas Lions failing to register a single shot on target. As for Bafana Bafana, they had tested former Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou with a single rasping shot off the trained boot of Mokoena. Mokoena put on a fighting display overall. The dynamic midfielder was at the centre of everything positive for the South Africans. Culminating in his goal in the dying embers of the game.

One player the Atlas Lions paid special attention to throughout the night was Bafana Bafana’s creative outlet, Themba Zwane. A retaliatory kick at Manchester United midfield anchor Sofyan Amrabat at the beginning of the second half was evidence enough of his frustration at the extra attention paid to him. 

Though, the extra scrutiny was a compliment to the skills of the 34-year-old, who boasts two Player of the Match trophies at the tournament so far. 

In the end, his creative genius was not a prerequisite for a Bafana Bafana win as South Africa pulled off the biggest upset of a 2023 Afcon that has seen some major upsets already. 

The team will now face Cape Verde on Saturday, 3 February. DM

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