The winner celebrates while the loser looks for excuses, and the ones given by Hugo Broos following Bafana Bafana’s 2-0 defeat to Mali in their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) opener in were flimsy to say the least.
The Belgian coach of South Africa’s senior national team lamented the lack of physically strong players in South Africa as if it was a fact he only learnt on Tuesday.
“Today we did not have enough strength in all things (sic). We saw the physical power of Mali. They pushed, they kicked, they did everything and we did not have an answer because we don’t have that kind of player – not just in front but everywhere.”
How long has Broos been Bafana Bafana coach, by the way? It’s been a little over two years, right? Now in my book that is enough time for a coach with his pedigree to realise the shortfall and then found ways around it.
It has always been known that against West African teams in particular, Bafana stand no chance physically. And the key then will be for the coach to get his team to employ their skills, pace and agility to navigate their way past an opposition as physical as Mali were in the second half.
Bafana appeared to be doing just that in a first half they thoroughly dominated and should have at least been 1-0 up at the break. But Percy Tau looked a gift horse in the mouth - the Al Ahly star hoofing his penalty kick over the goals rugby-style after VAR had given South Africa a spot-kick for an off-the-ball elbow charge in the box that left Evidence Makgopa with a bloodied mouth.
To his credit, Broos acknowledged that the miss was a huge let down.
“We lost the game on two facts. First missing the penalty; secondly the physical power of Mali in the second half. I think if we scored the penalty, the game should (would) be different. But that’s comments after the game that does not change the results,” he explained during the post match conference.
But for him to fail to come up with a plan for his team to deal with Mali’s increased physicality after the break was typical Broos – the Belgian never having showed adaptability in his tenure at the helm of our country’s national team.
I don’t recall a match in which the Afcon-winning coach ever revised his game plan to positive effect when Bafana were struggling.
And on Tuesday it was the same, the substitutions he made doing very little to change the complexion of the game in Bafana’s favour.
“With those two giants in the centre of the (Mali) defence, they used their power and we must be honest we don’t have those players (to compete against them).”
A smarter coach would have known to get his players to goad the “giants” into committing costly fouls with some trickery that South Africans are renowned for. In any case, both Sikou Niakate and Kiki Kouyate were already on yellow cards and why not test them out to see if they do not take the bait?
Intriguingly, Broos admitted that his adversary Eric Sekou Chele turned things around for the Eagles tactically.
“The performance was good. But then the coach of Mali saw what he had to do and they were stronger in the second half and we could not play our game anymore because of the power of Mali.”
Why he could not come up with a counter-plan, only he knows – although I suspect he would say he just does not have the players to could have done anything.
Pleasingly, he remains confident Bafana can still progress to the knockouts despite the defeat with Namibia next up on Sunday – the Brave Warriors having won at the Afcon finals for the first time in their fourth appearance via a shock 1-0 defeat of third-ranked Tunisia.
“Again, I think the performance was good performance, though not good enough. Now we play Namibia, we have to win that game (because) if we draw it will be difficult to go into the knockout. We can win that game. And I will tell the boys to ‘go just like you played today’ and I am sure we can win the game against Namibia.”
They better win, because South Africans would rather be celebrating on Sunday than come up with excuses.