Bafana have great opportunity to rewrite Afcon history against Tunisia

Bafana Bafana’s Grant Kekana challenges Namibia’s Peter Shalulile in the air during their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana’s Grant Kekana challenges Namibia’s Peter Shalulile in the air during their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jan 24, 2024


Mamelodi Sundowns defender Grant Kekana is fired up by the opportunity to help Bafana Bafana seal a place in the round of 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations.

The South African national team will battle Tunisia at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium today at 7pm. Bafana go into their encounter in second place in Group E after their resounding 4-0 victory over Namibia.

The 1996 winners of the continental showpiece can ensure a return to the Afcon knockout stages by merely avoiding defeat against their more fancied opponents.

Although they haven’t shown it yet, the Tunisia are ranked as the third-best team on the continent behind defending Afcon champions Senegal. Morocco lead the rankings.

The 31-year-old Kekana was roped into the Bafana starting XI after an indifferent showing by usual starter Siyanda Xulu in the first match. Alongside club mate Mothobi Mvala, he helped Bafana keep their first clean sheet of the competition to set up their emphatic win last time out.

Kekana believes that he and the rest of the Bafana squad are in the right frame of mind to tackle Tunisia and avoid an early exit from the tournament, and told the media as much.

“I think the guys are prepared well,” he said, alongside head coach Hugo Broos.

“Everyone is confident as well as looking forward to Tunisia. Obviously, it’s a big game.

“We don’t want to go home early, so we’re going to try and do our best to get a positive result.”

Bafana have a great opportunity to rewrite history, considering the country’s bad record against the north African nation.

Of the two times the two countries have met in the Afcon group stage, Tunisia have won both encounters by a two-goal margin.

The prospect, therefore, of meeting a Tunisia outfit low on creativity and goals seems to present a great opportunity for Bafana to pull off a memorable result.

Tunisia have scored just a single goal in the two matches they’ve played against Namibia and Mali so far and have lost and drawn those games, which is why they find themselves at the bottom of Group E. Bafana have four goals and a victory to their name, which sees them go into this encounter better placed.

Bafana have already shown that they could be one of the tournament’s dark horses alongside the likes of Cape Verde and Equatorial Guinea, who’ve booked places in the round of 16 already.

Their performance against a Mali side made up of European-based players in the first game, and their switch of tactics and personnel to run Namibia into the ground in the second game, revealed a few attributes associated with championship teams.

Broos does, however, feel that their opponents have an advantage over Bafana because they had an extra rest day.

Tunisia played their second game of the group stages against Mali on Saturday, while Bafana faced off with Namibia a day later.

“I’m a little bit uncomfortable that our opponent has had one more day in preparation than we had,” Broos said.

The Belgium-born coach also expressed his belief in his men, following their impressive performance last time out: “After the victory on Sunday, we have got a boost in energy, and we know what we can achieve.”