Cape Town - The historical pessimism around Bafana Bafana has been swept away by the team’s winning streak and has created a groundswell of optimism, which makes it easier to envision that a 2022 World Cup berth is no longer a pipe dream.
After four qualifying matches, remarkably, Bafana are undefeated, with three clean sheets. The team head the Group G standings, and with two rounds of matches remaining, they are in realistic contention to win the group.
Belgian coach Hugo Broos has transformed the mentality in the squad, and it has given rise to mounting self-esteem. He has created a new generation, mainly with young players who will form the nucleus of future teams.
Defender Rushine De Reuck is a greenhorn who Broos has identified as a player for the future. De Reuck has already acknowledged the enormous value of Broos as a mentor, and his game has thrived.
After the team’s 3-1 win in Ethiopia, De Reuck remarked: “He gives us the freedom to play. Everybody is happy with the way he handles the team. Everybody understands what they need to do on the field.
“If you have a coach who believes in you, then you’re fighting for the team. We want him to succeed, and he wants us to succeed as well. It’s easy to play for him.”
It was a glowing tribute from the Mamelodi Sundowns youngster. It has brought a sharpened competitive edge to a new breed of players who have an aura of tenacity.
They do not allow their shortcomings to impact their ability to close out matches on a winning note.
Broos was fascinated by the performance against Ghana. In Ethiopia, Broos was dazzled by the way the team fought back after conceding a goal from a dead-ball situation.
The flourishing fortunes of the team will be music to Broos’ ears. Soon after his appointment, he appealed to clubs to give youth a chance.
Recently, he emphasised the point again and said: “Maybe in a few months’ time, we will be happy with (Evidence) Makgopa and (Bongokuhle) Hlongwane.”
Joy “MamaJoy” Chauke speaking on the return of the vaccinated spectators to the stadium for this evening's game between @BafanaBafana and Ethiopia. #FIFAWCQ2022— IOL Sport (@IOLsport) October 12, 2021
📹by @Mihlalibaleka pic.twitter.com/sR2xtaF4jU
As it turns out, the two 21-yearolds, Makgopa and Hlongwane, are now key players in the team.
However, it has not always been plain sailing for Broos, and he has had to deal with incessantly negative echoes.
Coaches questioned the absence of players who have delivered top-class league performances.
Broos responded by saying: “I don’t give presents, I’m sorry.”
He has urged those players to keep working hard, and perhaps they will be considered for the two matches in November.
Broos has also felt he was being sabotaged on occasions. Two weeks ago, Thabiso Kutumela was booked for a Covid-19 vaccination while the national team camp was in progress. Kutumela’s absence was disruptive.
Equally disruptive at the camp was the no-show by Orlando Pirates midfielder Goodman Mosele, without any official explanation.
Prior to the camps, Broos asked to meet with local coaches, but it did not materialise. He was prompted to remark: “I have a feeling clubs in this country are more important than Bafana.”