The good news for South African fans livid at Bafana Bafana’s losing start to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Ivory Coast is that the 2-0 defeat to Mali does not spell the end of the country’s campaign.
Far from it, because besides still having two more matches to play in the group stages, Hugo Broos’ team could well still make it into the knockout stages.
Such is the nature of the extended 24-nation tournament that a single win could be enough to see a team making it through the round robin phase.
This was the case back in 2019 at the biennial continental showpiece hosted by Egypt when Bafana lost to Ivory Coast in their opening match and then beat Namibia in their second, before losing to Morocco in the last game.
They ended up as one of the four best third-place finishers and joined the 12 top-two finishers from the group stage and even went on to shockingly knock hosts Egypt out.
There’s no guarantee, though, that three points would be enough this time around and Bafana will need to do way better than they did against Mali in their remaining two matches against Namibia on Sunday and Tunisia next Wednesday.
The pressure is now on Ronwen Williams and co to ensure that they do not only replicate that impressive first-half performance against Mali but also compliment it with goals that will render their contest against Namibia a no-contest before it is too late.
This much coach Broos is aware of: “I think the performance was good though not good enough. Now we play Namibia, we have to win that game (because) if we draw it will be difficult to go into the knockout. We can win that game. And I will tell the boys to ‘go just like you played today’ and I am sure we can win the game against Namibia.”
History will suggest that Bafana are favourites against the Brave Warriors, South Africa having previously beaten Namibia twice at the Afcon finals – a 4-1 hammering back in 1998 in Burkina Faso and that 1-0 win in Egypt.
While they also were victorious in a friendly between the two countries recently, the match was tight, with Namibia giving as good as they got.