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Bafana’s draw against Nigeria was a good springboard for Zimbabwe WC qualification tussle

Bafana’s draw against Nigeria was a good springboard for Zimbabwe WC qualification tussle
Nigerian Onuachu Ebere Paul creates some problems for Bafana keeper Ronwen Williams and Ngezana Siyabonga in Uyo, Nigeria, on 7 June 2024. (Photo: Victor Ihechi /Gallo Images)

Bafana Bafana and Nigeria played to a 1-1 draw during their World Cup qualifier in Uyo on Friday evening. Now South Africa’s focus turns to a tussle against Zimbabwe — a fixture from which they are eyeing maximum points.

Heading into his team’s latest round of Fifa World Cup qualifiers for the 2026 instalment of the tournament, Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos said his team was aiming for a maximum of six points or a minimum of four.

In the first match of this second batch of qualification games — played in Uyo, Nigeria — Bafana Bafana and the Super Eagles played to a one-all stalemate. 

Though South Africa produced some silky and sumptuous interplay — anchored by their playmaker and scorer on Friday, Themba Zwane — they could not knock the Nigerians down and the star-studded home side equalised early in the second stanza through Fisayo Dele-Bashiru.

bafana south africa world cup qualifier

Ngezana Siyabonga of South Africa in action against Nigeria in Uyo on 7 June. (Photo: Victor Ihechi / Gallo Images)

Broos said the result was fair as “we had our chances and Nigeria had their chances”, but neither side could capitalise beyond the goal each scored in the entertaining contest.

Bafana Bafana’s Belgian boss lauded his team’s ever-improving mentality. South Africa took almost a full day to travel to Uyo because of technical problems en route.  

However, against the Super Eagles, there were no signs of mental or physical fatigue as Bafana Bafana matched the home side at every turn, even surpassing them at times, despite the Nigerians enjoying home advantage.  

“We had a terrible trip to Nigeria on Wednesday. We were only in bed at two on Thursday morning. So, we spent 20 hours travelling. And when you see the mentality of the team today, I can only be proud of my players,” Broos told journalists.

Long road ahead 

The draw placed Bafana Bafana on four points from three matches. They still have another seven games to play — including Tuesday’s battle in Bloemfontein against neighbours Zimbabwe.

South Africa are grouped with Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Benin and Lesotho. With five points accumulated to date, the latter nation surprisingly sits at the summit of the mini-league.

Only the group winner will be one of the nine African countries guaranteed a place at the Canada, US and Mexico-hosted World Cup.

Broos, who won the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) with Cameroon in 2017 and led South Africa to bronze at the event in 2023, believes that even though the qualification journey is still embryonic, the gap between so-called powerhouse nations and minnows has drastically reduced in recent years.

bafana south africa world cup qualifier

Mvala Mothobi and Ngezana Siyabonga of South Africa during the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Nigeria on 7 June. (Photo; Victor Ihechi/Gallo Images)

“Imagine three or four years ago you said, in a group like this, Lesotho would be first and Nigeria would be fifth. Everyone would have laughed at you. This is what has happened now in African soccer. [The gap between countries has narrowed],” Broos told journalists.

“I was with Cameroon in 2017, and recently I was with South Africa at the Afcon. The difference is that all those ‘little’ countries have progressed a lot. When you look at those teams, they don’t only have local players, but also those who play abroad. So, they have become stronger.”  

Broos (72) believes that the race for the World Cup spot in Group C will not be decided any time soon. 

“If you talk about the gap, I don’t think that there will be a big gap until the last game. It will be tough until the last game, and every team will have to play for a victory. It won’t be easy.

“We now have to play Zimbabwe on Tuesday and we need the three points. I will not be happy if we don’t win against Zimbabwe. But it is easy to say that behind the microphone. I know that it is going to be a tough game,” he said.

Bafana Bafana’s clash with Zimbabwe will be played at Free State Stadium on Tuesday, 11 June. Kick-off is at 6pm. DM

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