Johannesburg – Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos says it will be important to up the ante for their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) preparations following their victory over Morocco.
South Africa were lukewarm at best in the Afcon qualifiers before their clash against the Atlas Lions at FNB Stadium on Saturday as they had won one, drawn one and lost one.
They were expected to be no match for the mighty Morocco, who finished fourth in the Fifa World Cup in Qatar in December and are the No 1 team on the continent.
Bafana were the underdogs for the ‘dead rubber’ qualifier as both nations had already qualified for the finals, but they threw out the script and played their hearts out to win 2-1.
Percy Tau gave Bafana the lead before Zakhele Lepasa doubled their tally early in the second half, with Hakim Ziyech scoring the visitors’ consolation goal in a performance that sealed the players’ camaraderie.
“There’s no anger between the players – it’s a bunch of friends,” Broos said after the match.
“They help each other. You can see now in the dressing room, it’s crazy.
“Even the boys on the bench are delighted. This is something we worked on.
“This is why we have a group of players who know, ‘if I play, I have to perform because my friend is on the bench’.”
Broos’ belief in his players’ eagerness to perform for their country has given him confidence to organise matches against the best opponents. In the last few months, the Belgian was sceptical of playing friendlies against the best teams around the globe, still wounded by criticism after losing 5-0 to France.
As a precaution, Bafana played friendlies against low-ranked opposition like Botswana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Angola, where they won three games and drew one.
But that fear of losing is a thing of the past and Broos is confident they can compete against the big guns during the upcoming Fifa windows, which will be enough for them to prepare for Afcon in Ivory Coast next year.
“We just have the Fifa windows and that’s enough,” Broos said.
“There’s a Fifa window in September, October and November. During the preparations in January for Afcon, we’ll try to have some games also.
“You don’t have to play, play, play, but you must play, and now, you must play against good opponents. With all respect, but don’t play against Botswana again. No.
“We learned a lot of things when we won, but you know that this is not the level of Botswana. This is what we must do in the friendly games in September and October.
“We need those (top) teams to make the (preparations) stronger and be ready for Afcon.”
Bafana’s friendly games in September will not only serve as preparation for Afcon but for the World Cup qualifiers, which are set to get underway in November.
“There’s no big gap between now and September and October, we already have friendly games. It’s only in November when we’ll play in the (World Cup) qualifiers.
“We can work on it (the intensity), there’s no problem. Everybody said before the game against Morocco, ‘Morocco played against Cape Verde, why didn’t you have a game?’. What’s important was the pre-camp.
“Every player finished playing on May 20. I don’t think we’ll have problems with the gap now – in September there’ll be friendly games (as we have qualified for Afcon).”