CAIRO – Ronwen Williams was at a loss for words at first. He struggled to explain Bafana Bafana’s shock win over Egypt in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on Saturday.
Bafana stunned the hosts and one of the tournament favourites with a 1-0 win in front of a packed Cairo International Stadium. Thembinkosi Lorch’s goal was the difference. Bafana finally came to life after a poor start in the group stage while Egypt had a smooth ride to the knockout stage.
That ride was ended by Bafana that led to the firing of coach Javier Aguirre and resignation of the president of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), Hany Abo Rida.
Once Williams found his words, he was able to describe how Bafana felt after their impressive winning performance.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Williams said. “We believed this was coming. We knew that we had it in us. We know that we didn’t play well in our previous games, we were ready and were mentally prepared. We’re a good team and we need to believe in ourselves more. That was a perfect performance for us.
It wasn’t easy, with all the supporters against us and their star players. We played as a team. We are happy and proud, it was a big effort from the boys. But we stay humble and we move on to the next one.”
The Super Eagles of Nigeria await Bafana on Wednesday at Cairo International Stadium. If Bafana play like they did against Egypt, Nigeria have no chance against them. The win over the Pharaohs showed a different side of Bafana, a brave and determined side and not the timid and poor team they were in the group stage.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Williams said. “Our preparations weren’t good. We only had the game against Ghana. Other teams played three or four games. As coach Baxter said, we’re using this tournament as preparation. The further we go, the better we will get.”
Williams has grown in this tournament, showing that he could be the country’s first choice goalkeeper for years to come. His distribution and confidence have improved.
Despite that, he could start on the bench against Nigeria like he did against Namibia after having a brilliant game previously in the loss to Ivory Coast. Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has kept people guessing around the selection of goalkeepers with Darren Keet also a solid alternative. Keet, who is strong aerially, was in goal against Namibia while Wiliams, a good shot-stopper, returned to face Morocco and Egypt.
“It’s part of the game, the coach explained his reason,” Williams said. “I didn’t let that keep me down. I stayed positive and mentally strong. I continued working hard at training. I was prepared when given the opportunity again.”
The stand-out performance from Bafana came from Lorch who was playing for the first time in this competition. Williams was confident that Lorch would swim as he was thrown in the deep end due to Themba Zwane’s suspension.
“You don’t have to psyche up anyone. The occasion itself is big. The coach didn’t even need to motivate us, everyone was looking forward to the game. It was a long wait until we had to play. We didn’t need to psyche him up. He is a quality player. He showed in the PSL last season.
This is going to do our confidence and his a world of good.”