at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Johannesburg – Two Bafana Bafana legends heaped praise on the team’s performance against Angola, which put them on the brink of the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations, but warned Gordon Igesund’s charges not to play for a draw in their last Group A game against Morocco on Sunday.
On Thursday, former Bafana star midfielder Doctor Khumalo said that the team had shown “great attitude” in coming away with Wednesday’s 2-0 win over the Angolans, putting South Africa firmly at the top of the group and needing just a draw against Morocco in Sunday’s final group fixture in Durban to qualify for next weekend’s quarter-final stage.
“The attitude from the players was great. The team were hungrier than against Cape Verde (in last Saturday’s opening match). It was the right approach from the coach to make those changes, because in the end they worked,” said Khumalo, who now serves as Kaizer Chiefs’ assistant coach.
“The coach clearly went with his instincts. He saw the approach against Cape Verde was not working, and decided the overhaul the team.”
Khumalo’s fellow 1996-Afcon-winning Bafana teammate Eric Tinkler also showered Igesund’s team with plaudits, commending the coach’s decision to go with a single holding midfielder in Dean Furman, instead of the usual two anchormen.
“Gordon took a huge risk by making so many changes, and thankfully it worked,” Tinkler said.
“The combination of Dean and May Mahlangu was impressive. Dean in particular brought stability in midfield, he read the game well and when he won possession, he was always playing forward.”
Bafana know that only defeat against Morocco could leave them struggling to qualify for the knockout phase, but Khumalo and Tinkler said it would be wrong to head into the match with that mentality as Morocco, too, need an outright win to qualify.
“We have to go for a win,” Khumalo said. “We have just come off a great result against Angola, so there’s no need to take the foot off the pedal. You have to look beyond the game against Morocco, send a message to whoever we are going to face in the knockout phase. If we play for a draw in this game, it might be difficult to change that mentality for the next game, so we have to go for it.”
He also urged Igesund to persist with the line-up that did duty against Angola. “It was clear from our recent games that going with two holding midfielders won’t work. We now have something that’s working, and there’s no need to change. Wednesday’s team had players who could eliminate opponents and offer a lot of attack – that’s always been our strength. We need that skill for the rest of the tournament.”
Morocco have never beaten Bafana, but that’s what they will have to do if they are to avoid a first-round exit.
Tinkler also believes Bafana should approach the match against Morocco with a win in mind. “You cannot go into that game with a draw mentality, given where it got us previously,” the Orlando Pirates assistant coach said.
“I would say Gordon should continue with the team that did duty on Wednesday. Perhaps he should bring in Yeye (Reneilwe Letsholonyane), but Dean should still be our main man in midfield.
“We had a great performance and should look for continuity. I’m sure everyone in camp is feeling highly confident, so we should look to get three points. At the same time, we will have to play with a lot of maturity against Morocco.” – The Star