Johannesburg - Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula praised Bafana Bafana for a well spirited and bitter fight during the African Cup of Nation (Afcon) on Saturday.

“Our team fought hard and dominated but as a nation we understood that there could only be one winner.” he said.

“For us, South Africa has already won by being the best of this successful tournament. We wish Mali and all the other teams well in their endeavour to lift the Afcon 2013 trophy on February 10.”

He said the government, remain resolute that this was the best Afcon tournament ever hosted in the country.

“We look forward to Bafana Bafana representing us proudly in Brazil both at the 2014 Confederations and the FIFA World Cup. We thank South Africans who continued to rally behind Bafana Bafana and plead for their continued support towards the remaining teams in the tournament.”

Bafana Bafana was knocked out from the continental showpiece after failing to beat Mali during a tough quarter finals at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban.

Mali proceeded to the semi-finals after winning 3-1 on penalties against South Africa. The two sides played to a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.

“For two weeks South Africa has displayed excellent performance on and off the field, which inspired many across the length and breadth of our beloved country,” Mbalula said.

“We take pride in the support and confidence expressed by President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma to Bafana Bafana prior and during the Afcon soccer tournament.”

The finals of the Afcon tournament will be played at the National Stadium in Johannesburg on February 10. - Sapa