There’s still a long way to go before Bafana Bafana can raise their hand as one of the challengers for the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations finals.
But if their performance in the emphatic 4-0 win against neighbours Namibia is anything to go by, then they are surely headed in the right direction.
Namibia would have been the more confident of the two sides going into the match, having beaten Tunisia in their opener (their first win in four Afcon finals). Bafana, the 1996 champions, had their work cut out for them. They had started their campaign on a low, losing 2-0 to Mali on Tuesday last week.
But Hugo Broos’ men, like they have been doing over the years, didn’t disappoint against the Brave Warriors, thanks to Themba Zwane’s brace, and goals from Percy Tau and Thapelo Maseko.
It was Bafana’s second successive win over Namibia in the Afcon finals, a Bongani Zungu-inspired triumph being their only win in the group stage in 2019.
Sunday’s win was special, though. It was a collective effort that proved why teams need coaches who have nerves of steel and players with bigmatch temperament.
Coach Broos dropped Siyanda Xulu for Grant Kekana, resorting to a Mamelodi Sundowns back five, which also had Mothobi Mvala, Khuliso Mudau, Aubrey Modiba and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.
That was a master stroke, despite the nervy moments in the opening stage, as the quintet kept a clean sheet and contained club teammate Peter Shalulile, Namibia’s captain.
The replacement of Maseko for Thapelo Morena in the starting line-up also worked like a charm for Bafana. Morena tormented Rian Hanamub on the right flank.
He initially forced Hanamub into a penalty, which restored Percy Tau’s dignity and confidence after he missed against Mali, before he teed up Zwane for the second goal of the night.
It was brave of Tau to take that penalty considering that he was subjected to a lot of criticism after his incredible miss against the Eagles in the opening match.
The night belonged to Zwane, though. He is a player that Broos holds in high regard, having conceded that “only fools do not change their minds” after he initially snubbed him due to his age.
Zwane didn’t only prove that he’s maturing like fine wine, he also epitomised why Broos regards him as one of the best players he’s ever coached. Take nothing away from his well-executed curling strike in the first half, but Zwane was in his element for the second goal.
His feet were dancing as he mesmerised his marker, leaving him for dust, before rattling the roof of the net from an
awkward angle. But en route to Zwane grabbing the playerof-the-match award, his club teammates Maseko and Teboho Mokoena completed the rout.
Mokoena lofted a well-weighted pass that found the onrushing Maseko behind Namibia’s high line. The substitute hit a hard and low shot that came off Lloyd Kazapua before rolling into the back of the net.
Sure, it’s easy to say that the win was inspired in Chloorkop given that eight Sundowns players started the match and three of them scored on the night, but it was the nation’s win, all right. Broos selected the players and in return they stuck to his instructions and blended that with the existing camaraderie to inspire the win.
Needless to say, it would have been naïve of the silver-haired Belgian to overlook Sundowns’ players, who are the kings of their land and know African football very well, having won the inaugural African Football League.
So, as Bafana target a result against Tunisia tomorrow to reach the knockout stage for the second time in a row, Broos should be cautious of fixing what isn’t broken. This team is headed in the right direction.