Bafana hoping to end Mali hoodoo at Africa Cup of Nations

South Africa’s Belgian head coach Hugo Broos (C) speaks to his players during a training session at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France

File. Bafana have met Mali, their opponents in their Africa Cup of Nations opener on Tuesday, twice before in the Africa showpiece event and on both occasions were defeated by the West Africans. Seen here: Hugo Broos speaks during a Bafana training session. Picture: Franck Fife/AFP

Published Jan 15, 2024


Bafana Bafana will be hoping third time’s a charm when they face Mali in their Africa Cup of Nations Group E opener on Tuesday in Korhogo.

Bafana have met The Eagles twice in the biennial showpiece, with their first clash dating back to 2002, before meeting in the event again in 2013. With both matches coincidentally played on the same date, February 3 – the second in a quarter-final – it was the west Africans that reigned supreme.

They won the first match 2-0 on home soil before winning the second 3-1 on penalties, after the match at Moses Mabhida Stadium ended 1-1 after extra-time.

A lot has happened since then. Gordon Igesund, who coached the Class of 2013 that lost to the Malians, shared with Independent Media the kind of game he expects.

‘Hope the coach has a gameplan’

“It’s going to be a very tough game for them. I hope they are all in good spirits and the coach has a game plan … he studied Mali,” Igesund said.

“I hope he watched videos. I am sure they are getting ready. It’s the real test for us. We wanted to qualify. Mali, as we all know, are a good team. When I was in charge, Mali knocked out us on penalties.

“It was a hell of a game. We led 1-0 and they kept going. It’s going to be a great game.”

But while Igesund expects a tough battle, Shaun Bartlett, who was one of the strikers in the Class of 2002, revealed where he believes Bafana could win the game.

“It was many years ago, but I think there’s one thing you can learn from the west African players and that’s the physicality,” Bartlett explained.

“It’s something that we have to deal (with) and that’s why we must use the strength of our players. We’ve got speedy players. We need to use that.”

Bartlett is right. Bafana will need to play to their strength if they are going to at least salvage a point from their opening game in Group E.

In their preparations, they blew hot and cold, drawing matches that they were supposed to easily win against the so-called minnows.

Backing Bafana a tough ask

They drew their last friendly, which was played behind closed doors, against Lesotho, something that didn’t please most of their partisan fans. With Mali and Tunisia tipped to pose a challenge to Bafana’s chances of exiting the group, many are already casting doubts over Bafana’s ability to beat them.

Igesund, though, has backed current coach Hugo Broos to have a trick up his sleeve considering the type of players at his disposal.

“I think they have obviously planned. They know what to do and want to do,” said Igesund before backing Broos to play the suitable team.

“We can’t really comment much on the outside. The coach has to play things close to his chest and play the team he feels is best for the game.

“I want to wish them all the best. I think it’s going to be an interesting game. We’ve got a nice young team. So let’s wait and see how they’ll go.”


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