How Bafana Bafana slayed Atlas Lions of Morocco at Afcon

Mothobi Mvala nullified the threat of the dangerous Youssef En-Nesyri n Bafana’s win over Morocco. Picture: Weam Mostafa / BackpagePix

Mothobi Mvala nullified the threat of the dangerous Youssef En-Nesyri n Bafana’s win over Morocco. Picture: Weam Mostafa / BackpagePix

Published Feb 1, 2024


Bafana Bafana reached the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations by defeating competition favourites Morocco 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Head coach Hugo Broos applauded the sheer determination of his side, but more the tactical perfection on the night.

Although they had to weather a late surge by Morocco, Bafana were largely in control of their destiny as they enjoyed 46% of the ball possession and looked like a constant goal threat.

Soccer writer SMISO MSOMI gives a breakdown of how Bafana slayed the Atlas Lions in Ivory Coast ...

Tactical respect and discipline

Bafana had already displayed their adaptability in the group stages, having adopted three different styles of play in their matches against Mali, Namibia and Tunisia.

It came as a surprise, however, that Morocco adopted a more conservative approach against Bafana as they looked to close down gaps between midfield and defence.

The ball-playing ability of Sphephelo Sithole and Themba Zwane saw Bafana have their share of the possession, but there was a lot of tactical respect, until a lack of discipline by Morocco allowed SA to break through their defensive lines for the opening goal by Evidence Makgopa.

Bafana also proved their on-field IQ in preserving their lead for a while before finishing off the result in fine style on the counter-attack via a free-kick.

The Tebogo Mokoena show

“Tebza” ran the show for Bafana, having been handed a free role in midfield, backed up by the more defensive Sithole.

The 27-year-old achieved an 86% pass completion rate on the night, having had 79 touches on the ball – the most by a Bafana player – highlighting his influence in not only controlling the tempo of play for Bafana, but also pushing them forward.

His late free-kick to seal the game was just the icing on the cake after a fine performance both defensively and offensively.

Understanding pressure areas

It was interesting to see both Bafana and Morocco not implement a high press for the majority of the match.

The two coaches respected each other’s intricate passing when building up, and therefore opted to wait at the halfway line to initiate pressing traps.

It was through these traps that Bafana found joy on the counter-attack as Morocco had vacated acres of space in behind the defence for the likes of Percy Tau and Thapelo Morena to run into.

Winning one-on-one duels

The sheer quality of the Morocco players raised the importance of winning individual duels all over the pitch, which Bafana did.

Mothobi Mvala got the better of the dangerous Youssef En-Nesyri, Khuliso Mudau kept Abdi Ezzalzouli quiet and Themba Zwane ensured Sofyan Amrabat had no show in midfield.

Playing with confidence

Following their mistake-ridden defeat to Mali in the first match, Broos had the hard task of convincing his side to be persistent with their ball retention.

With Morocco seemingly waiting for them to make errors in dangerous areas, Bafana played with confidence and could create good scoring chances, one of which was taken by Makgopa.