Expectant Bafana fans must be realistic about Afcon chances

Striker Zakhele Lepasa (left) will have an even bigger task on his hands for Bafana at Afcon in the absence of Lyle Foster

Striker Zakhele Lepasa (left) will have an even bigger task on his hands for Bafana at Afcon in the absence of Lyle Foster. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Dec 30, 2023


Spare a thought for Hugo Broos as he looks to help South African football reclaim some semblance of respect on the continent.

The Belgian – who has done well to earn Bafana Bafana a place at the table of Africa’s biggest football tournament – is already on the back foot even before the Africa Cup of Nations begins in the Ivory Coast in mid-January.

Of course, such is the inflated nature of the continent’s premier tournament – which used to be contested by Africa’s top 16 sides, but now sees 24 nations competing – that anything less than qualification would have been unacceptable.

And given that Broos has previously won the tournament with Cameroon back in 2017, it will not be asking too much of the silver-haired coach to expect him to deliver South Africa’s second title, would it?

The reality, as Broos has indicated repeatedly, is that the Bafana pool he had to pick his players from is nothing compared to the Indomitable Lions group he had the pleasure of leading – both in quality and mentality.

Thus, as we anticipate the month-long tournament that will be hosted by the Ivory Coast at the turn of the year, South Africans would do well to be supportive of Broos and his team, while keeping expectations reasonable.

We are, after all, a nation whose Africa Cup of Nations record is nothing to shout home about – South Africa’s lone victory in their maiden finals appearance back in 1996 was followed by such a decline you’d have sworn the Nigerians were right to say that we won due to their absence.

For this upcoming tournament, Bafana go in having missed out on the previous one – hence Broos’s achievement is to be celebrated somewhat.

He announced a fairly good squad this past week that will be bereft of the country’s strongest firepower, due to the non-availability of the Europe-based duo of Lyle Foster (England) and Lebo Mothiba (France).

That he will rely on local strikers such as the Orlando Pirates duo of Zakhele Lepasa and Evidence Makgopa to get past opposition of the calibre of Mali and Tunisia suggests that Broos has a lot of work on his hands.

And sadly, he just does not have the time – what with Bafana only going into camp at the beginning of the year, when he had hoped they would have had this final week to start their preparations.

And then he will only test his team’s readiness in a friendly international against Lesotho.

With due respect to South Africa’s neighbour from the mountain kingdom, that is no proper way to rehearse for clashes against a Mali outfit that Bafana are yet to be victorious against at the Afcon finals.

Les Aigles (The Eagles) have twice sent Bafana packing at the finals – beating Carlos Queiroz’s men in Kayes in the quarter-final of the 2002 tournament that they hosted, and then repeating the dose 11 years later when a South Africa coached by Gordon Igesund hosted.

Tunisia are always tough opponents, and while Bafana fans will have fond memories of the brace by Mark Williams that delivered the 2-0 win over the Carthage Eagles at the FNB Stadium in the 1996 final, the North Africans did get even a decade later.

Back in 2006, in Alexandria, Egypt, Tunisia won by the same scoreline as Bafana endured their worst Afcon campaign ever of going goalless and pointless.

Ordinarily, the clash with Namibia would be viewed as a guaranteed three points.

But they were no pushovers the last time around, and are likely to give just as good as they get. And with Bafana’s defeat at Rwanda just the other day, there’s every reason for the Desert Warriors to fancy their chances against Broos’s men.

In any case, they have Peter Shalulile in their armoury, and the Sundowns marksman smashes the local defenders weekly.

At the age of 71 and with 35 years’ coaching experience, Broos knows just about all there is to know about the game, and he would no doubt have previously faced situations as tough – if not tougher – as this current one of having to deliver good results for an ordinary team, with very little to go with in terms of proper preparations.

A nation expects. But it would do well to make those expectations realistic.

Bafana Bafana squad

Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (Mamelodi Sundowns), Veli Mothwa (AmaZulu), Ricardo Goss (SuperSport United)

Defenders: Khuliso Mudau, Grant Kekana, Terrence Mashego, Aubrey Modiba, Mthobi Mvala (all Sundowns), Nkosinathi Sibisi (Orlando Pirates), Sydney Mobbie (Sekhukhune United), Siyanda Xulu (SuperSport)

Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena, Thapelo Maseko, Thapelo Morena (all Sundowns), Sphephelo Sithole (CD Tondela, Portugal), Jayden Adams (Stellenbosch FC), Thabang Monare (Pirates)

Forwards: Themba Zwane (Sundowns), Zakhele Lepasa, Evidence Makgopa (both Pirates), Oswin Appollis (Polokwane City), Mihlali Mayambela (Aris Limassol, Cyprus), Percy Tau (Al Ahly, Egypt)

On Standby: Thapelo Xoki (Orlando Pirates) Sibongiseni Mthethwa (Kaizer Chiefs), Elias Mokwana (Sekhukhune United)

IOL Sport