Time for Bafana Bafana to prove their mettle on the AFCON landscape in the Ivory Coast cauldron

Bafana Bafana need a much improved performance against African giants Ivory Coast. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana need a much improved performance against African giants Ivory Coast. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Oct 16, 2023


Bafana Bafana have to redeem themselves against 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Ivory Coast on Tuesday, if they are to have any chance of making a name for themselves at the tournament next year.

Hugo Broos’ team unceremoniously drew 0-0 with neighbours Eswatini on Friday - a result that was unexpected given the latter’s lowly world ranking (144th). And given Bafana’s win over the Democratic Republic of the Congo last month, it was a match that they had to win, and were expected to, at all costs. It was a sentiment that was also shared by Broos in his prematch build-up.

This was not an ordinary game for Bafana. It also served as the penultimate preparation clash for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next month and Afcon in January. But despite things going wrong to the extent that Broos was fuming at his post-match briefing, Bafana can’t bury their heads now; not when they are about to face Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast are not only the host country of Afcon - where Bafana are in Group E with Tunisia, Mali and Namibia - but they are one of the top footballing nations in Africa.

Ranked 50th in the world, the Elephants are ninth in Africa - 15 spots ahead of Bafana in the world and four in Africa, respectively; and although their Afcon draw was due to their hosting tag, the merits of their standing would have ensured a favourable outcome regardless.

They showed that they will fight hard in the coming months after a 1-1 draw against World Cup semi-finalists and Africa’s highest ranked team, Morocco, at home on

Saturday. It was a gallant fight from the Ivorians, led by Sebastien Haller before Ayoub El Kaabi equalised for Morocco.

The west Africans will take a lot of positives from that result, and could even make a mockery of Morocco coach Walid Regragui’s statement, which tipped Bafana for the Afcon title next year.

However, it is the underdogs tag that should motivate the South Africans if they are to ruin the Ivorians’ party before it begins by getting a famous win at what will be a sold out stadium in Abidjan. Bafana are not used to playing in front of capacity crowds and were embarrassed by the DRC, who had more fans at Orlando Stadium last month.

Also, the Bafana camp is starting to look rather unstable with players withdrawing due to “family reasons”, as was the case with talisman Percy Tau. Reports have emerged that Zakhele Lepasa has mysteriously withdrawn from camp as well, the Orlando Pirates striker not boarding the flight to Abidjan on Saturday.

Sure, challenges are there for Bafana, but this is the time for them to prove that they can overcome any adversities and remain among the favourites at Afcon come January.

Broos is no stranger to winning an Afcon title under adverse conditions. In 2017, he achieved that feat with Cameroon despite coming under severe pressure following disagreements with players and the Cameroonian Football Federation.

So, it’s perhaps now that the Belgian has to prove his tactical nous to the masses, especially having received a lukewarm reception preand-post-appointment in 2021. And that could not come at a better time than beating the Ivorians on their home turf now, would it?