Bafana looking for repeat of 1996 magic

Bafana Bafana will conclude their Afcon group stage campaign against the Carthage Eagles. Picture: File

Bafana Bafana will conclude their Afcon group stage campaign against the Carthage Eagles. Picture: File

Published Jan 24, 2024


As the Tokyo DisneySea theme song goes, It'll Be Magical if South Africa can produce a repeat of their 1996 Africa Cup of Nations final performance on Wednesday against Tunisia.

South Africa’s 2-0 win in 1996 remains one of the iconic moments in African football. The team, inspired by Madiba Magic won the continental showpiece in their first attempt shortly after the dawn of democracy in South Africa.

Bafana Bafana will conclude their Afcon group stage campaign against the Carthage Eagles at the 20 000-seater Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo, Ivory Coast, on Wednesday (kick-off 7pm).

The two teams are yet to secure progression to the last 16 round, and the dynamics of the delicately poised Group E suggest that a draw for Bafana could be enough to progress to the knock-out stage.

Tunisia, with a mere point after two matches, will need to win to keep their last 16 round hopes alive. They were shockingly defeated by Namibia in their first match in an outcome that will rank among the greatest upsets in AFCON history.

With a 28th world ranking, Tunisia will be favourites, even though they have been far from impressive. After two games, they have one goal, while conceding two, and are rock-bottom on the Group E standings. In their last outing, they managed one shot on target in the entire match in the 1-1 stalemate against Mali.

South Africa slots in at 66 on the latest Fifa rankings but has shown remarkable improvement in their second match against Namibia last Sunday.

In their opening match, Mali scored a flattering 2-0 win over South Africa, who held the upper hand for sustained periods in the first half.

Bafana’s attacking midfielder, Themba Zwane, has become key to victory. This past Sunday, he spearheaded the team’s resurgent performance with two dazzling first-half goals, which steered the South Africans to a commanding 3-0 half-time lead.

In the process, Zwane at 34-years and 171-days-old became the oldest player to score for South Africa at AFCON and he is pumped up for the Tunisia showdown.

“I’m 100% confident for each game. I always try to score goals,” said Zwane.

“As an attacking player, you need to score to boost your confidence. I’m happy I got two chances against Namibia, and I scored two goals. Hopefully, I’ll score more.

“We know that it is not over yet. It’s going to be a difficult one against Tunisia. We will analyse them properly and come up with a plan.

“We know that we need to win to qualify for the last 16.”

Former Bafana stalwart Bernard 'Die Hond' Parker has urged the team to adopt similar tactics for Wednesday's AFCON clash. Parker, capped 73 times for SA, has called for a compact defence.

“I think we should take a similar approach (as against Namibia) when facing Tunisia because we looked more direct in terms of wanting to score," said Parker in an interview with BoyleSports.

"Also, we look more confident in our movements, especially in the wide areas. At the same time, we should keep a more compact defence. Tunisia is going to come out guns blazing.

"It's going to be a much more difficult game because they need a win at all costs. So, we need to guard against that by keeping a solid defence and using our speed on the counter-attack.”

While the Bafana Bafana - Tunisia match is in progress, the Mali - Namibia clash will be played at the same time, and that will conclude the Group E matches.

The Star