JOHANNESBURG - Bafana Bafana assistant coach Helman Mkhalele was smiling from ear to ear at the Orlando Stadium auditorium after inspiring the national team to a win over Uganda on Thursday night, insisting once the players grasp their philosophy, they’ll be unstoppable.
Since their epic failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon next year, Bafana assembled for camp for the first time this week. However, they were without new coach Hugo Broos who returned home to receive his second jab of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Mkhalele and Cedomir Janevski were supposed to oversee Bafana's international friendly against The Cranes. But Janevski was withdrawn from the match after testing positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, leaving Mkhalele as the sole custodian at the helm.
Mkhalele got the business done on the day, inspiring the youthful team to a win over Uganda, thanks to a brace from Evidence Makgopa and solo goal from Bongokuhle Hlongwane, while the visitors scored their consolations from Ibrahim Orit and Abdul Lumala.
It was not the most convincing performance from the youthful starting line, which had eight debutants, but Mkhalele believes that the introduction of Makgopa and Thabiso Kutumela during halftime worked like a charm as they managed to turn things around.
“Although we didn’t dominate in the first half, they were not hurting us that much because they were always dominating possession in their own half. So whenever they went forward, they couldn’t create those chances except for the one they scored,” Mkhalele said.
“In the second half, we needed to change our formation and personnel – bring in players that we believe can limit them from building from the back. Once we regained possession in their own half, it became easy for the boys (to go forward) because of their technical abilities.”
He continued: “We saw those combinations, and one-twos, to create the scoring opportunities. I’m proud of the fact that we took our chances in the second half, although I feel that we could have scored more goals. Towards the end, you could see that the boys were tired.”
Bafana are set to return to camp in September when they play Zimbabwe and Ghana in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, where Broos is expected to take charge of his first match. Mkhalele, though, is adamant it’s only a matter before the team runs like a well-oiled machine.
“I think once the boys start to understand our philosophy, I believe that we are going to build a very strong team that we’ll be competitive - not only in continental football but in world football. South Africa has the talent,” Mkhalele added.