Bafana can’t afford to write off Warriors

Teboho Mokoena of South Africa is challenged by Fisayo Dele-Bashiru of Nigeria during their World Cup qualifier on Friday night. | BackpagePix

Teboho Mokoena of South Africa is challenged by Fisayo Dele-Bashiru of Nigeria during their World Cup qualifier on Friday night. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 10, 2024



Bafana Bafana cannot afford to leave any stone unturned when they host Zimbabwe in their fourth group stage World Cup qualifier in Bloemfontein tomorrow night.

Bafana will enter the Free State Stadium (kick-off 6pm) as favourites to beat the Warriors, given the contrasting fate of the two nations. The South Africans are like a well-oiled machine compared to the Warriors, due to the progress and stability under coach Hugo Broos in the past three years.

Coach Hugo Broos of South Africa. | BackpagePix

They came close to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as their only blemish was losing their last group stage qualifier to Ghana via a dubious penalty decision. Broos’ charges took that disappointment on the chin as they finished third in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, their best finish in the event in 24 years.

Their qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup has had its ups and downs, after having beaten Benin, lost to Rwanda and drawn with Nigeria on Friday away from home. However, although Lesotho top Group C with five points after three games, Bafana remain favourites – alongside Nigeria – to win the group.

Zimbabwe, meanwhile, are in a chaotic state and their basement position in the group is justifiable. The Warriors are fresh from an 18-month ban by world football governing body Fifa due to political interference in the running of the association.

Since then, the administration of the team has been chaotic, especially in the hiring of the coaches – Zimbabwe has had three different coaches at the helm during this period.

Baltemar Brito oversaw the first two qualifiers, drawing with Benin and Nigeria. The coaching hands changed in March, with Norman Mapeza guiding the team in two friendlies against neighbours Zambia and Kenya. Now, Jairos Tapera has been appointed as the Warriors’ coach on an interim basis, his first game ending in a 2-0 loss to Lesotho on Friday afternoon.

Jairos Tapera’s first game in charge of Zimbabwe as interim head coach ended in a 2-0 loss to Lesotho. | BackpagePix

Tapera, though, is sceptical of reading too much into the changes in the coaching department, saying he’s just honoured to serve his nation.

“I think it’s very difficult for me to answer on the management issues,” Tapera said after their loss to Lesotho on Friday night.

“Whoever is coming in and not, that is for the boardroom to decide ... No one will fail or refuse to represent his country. If someone says ‘represent your country’, you represent your country to the best of your abilities.”

Sure, it may not seem that Tapera and his troops have represented their nation with distinction in the qualifiers, but the discerning Bafana supporter will be wary of their threat nonetheless.

Bafana have struggled against the so-called lesser teams in the past. Coach Broos seems to know this all too well and has already declared he will be unhappy if they fail to beat Zimbabwe.

The onus, then, is on Bafana not to leave any stone unturned in search of a victory.

Related Topics:

bafana bafanasoccer