Sport

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS

Williams’s goalkeeping heroics in high-stress game sneak Bafana into Afcon semis

Williams’s goalkeeping heroics in high-stress game sneak Bafana into Afcon semis
Ronwen Williams in full flight for South Africa against Cape Verde in their Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal at Charles Konan Stadium in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, on 3 February 2024. (Photo: ©Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix)

Celebrating after a stressful game, Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos described his team’s 2-1 win on penalties against Cape Verde in the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals as the worst performance they have put on in the tournament. 'We won via penalties and we’re happy.'

A brilliant Ronwen Williams performance with the goalkeeping gloves played a pivotal part in helping Bafana Bafana squeeze 2-1 past Cape Verde, via the dreaded penalty shootout, in the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on Saturday.

South Africa’s captain Williams saved a staggering four penalties during the lottery of the shootout to send his country to their first appearance in an Afcon semifinal in 24 years. This came after Bafana and the Blue Sharks could not be separated as the match ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of play.

“It was a very stressful game. Certainly, with penalties, you never know what will happen,” said Broos during his post-match press conference in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.

Bafana Ronwen Williams

Bafana Bafana’s Ronwen Williams saves the fifth penalty against Cape Verde in their Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal at Charles Konan Stadium in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, on 3 February 2024. (Photo: ©Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

“We were not lucky. We had a very good goalkeeper. If you can save four penalties, it’s not luck anymore. Not only that. But he saved us two minutes before the end [when Cape Verde engineered a one-on-one chance on goal],” continued Broos, while lavishing Williams with praise.

The humble Williams shifted the focus away from himself as he received the player of the match award.

The Mamelodi Sundowns goal guardian said his teammates had generally protected him during the ongoing football extravaganza in Ivory Coast. Against Cape Verde he had to repay the favour.

But I’ve said it already. It’s not the way you win. It’s about winning [full stop]. We won via penalties and we’re happy.

“The fight and the desire we had as a team, for 120 minutes? That’s what matters to me [over being player of the match]. To see the brotherhood out there? That matters to me,” Williams said as he dedicated his accolade to the whole team.  

Drought broken

During the 2000 edition, Bafana Bafana secured a bronze medal. However, since then it’s been a frustrating time for the country in the tournament. A time characterised by missed qualifications, group-stage exits, as well as reaching the quarterfinals.

Now that particular drought is over and the one-time African champions are confident of heading all the way to a second continental crown. Even though another tough challenge, in the form of Nigeria’s Super Eagles, awaits Broos and his charges.

Ronwen Williams saves a penalty during South Africa’s Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal against Cape Verde at Charles Konan Stadium in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, on 3 February 2024. (Photo: ©Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix)

Bafana

Ronwen Williams after making a penalty save during Bafana Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal against Cape Verde on 3 February 2024. (Photo: ©Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

The clash against Cape Verde – who were bidding to reach the last four of Afcon for the first time in history – is likely the jolt that Bafana Bafana need if they are to reach and possibly win the final.

Against the Blue Sharks, they were off the pace as the islanders dominated for large periods and had the South Africans chasing. However, they could not capitalise on finding a flat-footed South Africa as they failed to trouble Williams in goal.

This is a very good thing for South African football. South African players are in the picture now.

“Our match was not so good. We played our worst game of the tournament. We played better against Mali. We played better against Namibia, Tunisia and Morocco. Today was not the team we saw in the previous weeks.

“But I’ve said it already. It’s not the way you win. It’s about winning [full stop]. We won via penalties and we’re happy,” Broos told journalists after the game.

South Africa’s coach Hugo Broos and  team manager Vincent Tseka celebrate their Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal victory. (Photo: © Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix)

Khuliso Mudau of South Africa is challenged by Patrick Correia Andrade of Cape Verde during their Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal. (Photo: ©Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

“There were many people in South Africa that didn’t believe in the team. But we believed in it. The players believed in the fact that it could happen [that they reach this stage of the tournament]. And it happened,” the 71-year-old Belgian mentor added.  

The coach, who has consistently flagged the overall quality of South Africa’s top-flight league (saying it is not at the level that it ought to be) said he hopes his team’s memorable foray at Afcon will see some of the players land themselves moves to international clubs.    

“This is a very good thing for South African football. South African players are in the picture now. That means there will be more interest in South African football,” Broos stated.

Ronwen Williams of South Africa and Hugo Broos, head coach, celebrate their Afcon  quarterfinal victory. (Photo: ©Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix)

There is little time to celebrate though. The team still has a job to do. Bafana’s focus will now shift to the high-flying Super Eagles, who they tackle on Wednesday, 7 February at 7pm.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Team of 2024 aims to emulate Bafana’s greatest Afcon victories

The Nigerians defeated Angola 1-0 in their quarterfinal clash on Friday to book their spot in the last four.

“Nigeria is a team that has become better with every passing game. When I saw them play [against Angola], I saw a good team. They also have a few good players. We have to analyse them a bit more now. We will see how we can use their weaknesses,” Broos said.

Bafana Bafana will have to play a game that is much better than their display against Cape Verde if they are to oust the three-time African champions. The Super Eagles are unlikely to be as profligate as the Blue Sharks if the South Africans are not operating at 150% capacity on the day. DM

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