Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has lauded his side’s resurgence at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Ivory Coast as fans challenge the team to repeat the success of 1996.
Bafana reached the quarter-finals of the biennial showpiece in style on Tuesday night after beating the No 1-ranked nation in Africa, Morocco, 2-0 in San Pedro.
Striker Evidence Makgopa opened the scoring for South Africa in the 57th minute, and after Achraf Hakimi missed a late penalty for Morocco, midfielder Teboho Mokoena produced a stunning goal from a free kick in stoppage time to secure a spot in the last eight.
It was an impressive display that saw Bafana’s detractors – who either tipped the team to crash out in the group stage or bemoaned their second-place finish in Group E – eating humble pie.
But while the naysayers were left with egg on their faces, those who had believed in the team from the outset or changed their minds are challenging the South Africans to “dare to dream” on social media and on the streets.
It’s been 28 years since Bafana last won the biennial showpiece on home soil – when they beat Tunisia 2-0 in the 1996 title decider at the FNB Stadium – while their best finish since then was coming second in the 1998 tournament.
So, with Broos the only Afcon-winning coach (with Cameroon in 2017) remaining in the last eight, the pendulum seems to be swinging in Bafana’s direction as far as the crown’s concerned.
The silver-haired 71-year-old Belgian has welcomed the positivity that has engulfed his team in recent weeks.
“I think I said maybe in the beginning of Afcon that it’s very important that you grow in the tournament,” he said after the win against Morocco.
“And I think South Africa grew in the tournament. We played against Mali and we lost, but then, we were much better against Namibia (winning 4-0) and had a difficult game against Tunisia (0-0).
“Today against Morocco (we won). So, we become, every day, better and better. And this is very important (for the team going forward).”
Bafana might have improved with every passing game, but they can’t afford to rest on their laurels, given that they are three wins away from the crown.
Bafana’s next hurdle will be against islanders and fellow surprise packages of the tournament, Cape Verde, in Yamoussoukro on Saturday night (10pm South African time kick-off).
But while Broos will also be wary of his team’s struggles against the so-called minnows, he’s thrilled to have players with big-match temperament at his disposal. “We have players as you said.
We have Themba Zwane, who was the Player of the Match two times, and today it was Teboho Mokoena,” he said.
“So, that means we are doing good as a team, and we have players that can make a difference. And that is, again, important for us.”
A win for Broos against Cape Verde would see them pass the quarter-final hurdle for the first time in 24 years.
So, surely Bafana supporters are right to challenge the team to dare to dream?