Path to 2026 Fifa World Cup lights up for Bafana Bafana

IQRAAM Rayners scored the opening goal for Bafana against Zimbabwe. Photo: BackpagePix

IQRAAM Rayners scored the opening goal for Bafana against Zimbabwe. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 13, 2024


THE South African men’s national team have lit up their 2026 Fifa World Cup route with great optimism following two impressive results against Nigeria and Zimbabwe in the qualifiers.

Bafana Bafana concluded what could have been a tricky international window with a blinding 3-1 win over the Warriors at the Free State Stadium on Tuesday night.

That result followed on from a reasonably difficult outing in Nigeria, where coach Hugo Broos and his boys shared the spoils against the Super Eagles.

Bafana now sit in second place in Group C level on points with leaders Rwanda, who have a slightly better goal difference, with Benin also on seven points in third.

The biggest surprise and boost for Bafana’s chances is the implosion of group favourites Nigeria, who are yet to win a game in these qualifiers, and have recorded three draws and a loss, and are second from bottom in the group.

Bafana coach Hugo Broos was asked about his feelings after the four points he had targeted before the two games were achieved, and the staunch Belgian expressed that the only results he was watching were that of his team, and not the other nations in the group.

The former Africa Cup of Nations winner also highlighted the importance of retaining a good goal difference in these qualifiers.

“It’s important that we won 3-1, and now we have two more goals in the goal difference, this is a good thing,” he said.

“I don’t look at the results of our opponents, I just look at our results, and if our results are good, then whatever the opponent does is not important.

“Today, it was important to win not because Nigeria lost or anything else happened, but it was important to win for us and we did it, and that’s the focus we need to have.”

For several years, Bafana have gone about their business of trying to qualify for major tournaments with anxiety and pressure from a home support base that could switch up on that at any time.

Now under the guidance of Broos, they have gathered the confidence of a powerhouse African football nation, and the coach believes that if his team keep the standings in mind heading into next year, they will qualify to go to the USA, Canada and Mexico for the World Cup.

“We will never qualify because of other results, but you will because of your own results. And we’re on schedule now, so let’s go on next year when the qualifiers start again – and if we keep this level, then we have a good chance to qualify.”

— SABC Sport (@SABC_Sport) June 11, 2024

Although with great positivity, Bafana still have to navigate six more matches, against Lesotho (home), Benin (away), Lesotho (away), Nigeria (home), Zimbabwe (away) and Rwanda (home).

Of the six games, Bafana will play just one in unfamiliar territory, Benin, and the remaining six will be on South African soil, with Lesotho and Zimbabwe both playing their qualifying games in this country.