Hugo Broos (left) and his players can afford a smile: Image via Facebook @ Bafana Bafana-South Africa

Hugo Broos (left) and his players can afford a smile: Image via Facebook @ Bafana Bafana-South Africa

Bafana Bafana deal huge blows to Hugo Broos’ critics

What Bafana Bafana’s qualification to the 2023 Afcon quarterfinals after beating Morocco mean to Hugo Broos and critics of his squad

Hugo Broos (left) and his players can afford a smile: Image via Facebook @ Bafana Bafana-South Africa

Hugo Broos (left) and his players can afford a smile: Image via Facebook @ Bafana Bafana-South Africa

It is fair to suggest that a section of the Mzansi football fraternity has never liked Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos. Not much for performance-related reasons. But for trivia such as the ex-Cameroon boss’s old age, abrasive personality and his being brutally honest. Little wonder when Broos announced his final 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) travelling party on December 28, 2023, knives were out. The critics did not waste time punching holes in the 23-member squad.

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Broos and dealing with the ‘noise’ on squad selection

Never mind that the 71-year-old boasts a pedigree after guiding Cameroon to the 2017 Afcon glory. Never mind that his Bafana Bafana run of 14 wins, five losses, and eight draws across all competitions is not bad. If it was not about the absence of Kaizer Chiefs players then the ‘noise’ was about ‘too many’ Mamelodi Sundowns players in the Bafana Bafana squad. Former Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertuğral seemed to refer to this ‘noise’ when he congratulated the 1996 champions after Tuesday’s result. He tweeted @ Muhsin Ertuğral: “Congratulations boys on your well-deserved victory. Congrats to the technical team. [You] worked in silence and against all odds. Success is your noise!”

How Broos was criticised for his final Afcon squad

The choice of Orlando Pirates’ Zakhele Lepasa and Evidence Makgopa ahead of America-based forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane and DStv Premiership leading scorer Khanyisa Mayo had even more tongues wagging. With Lyle Foster unavailable, an early flight back to O.R Tambo International Airport seemed inevitable for South Africa.

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Opening the 2023 Afcon chapter with a 2-0 loss to Mali further vindicated the anti-Broos brigade. However, the Belgian struck to his script, altering his tactics from flowery to the ultra-defensive depending on the opposition. South Africa recovered from the opening defeat to register an emphatic 4-0 win over Namibia. This victory was built on Bafana Bafana’s ethos of a passing game with fluidity from the back. However, the approach changed against Tunisia and Morocco. Forwards, Percy Tau and Makgopa had to be ready to defend. Eventually, Bafana Bafana forced a goalless draw against Tunisia to book a round-of-16 berth.

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How Bafana Bafana bounced back from Afcon setback

Then came Morocco, the number one ranked side in Africa. Broos was unfazed. His charges delivered by beating the Atlas Lions 2-0 on Tuesday. The coach deployed similar tactics that suffocated Tunisia—keeping the ball and slowing play. Once the Atlas Lions were frustrated to the bone, South Africa struck twice. Makgopa put South Africa ahead in the 57th minute, thanks to Themba Zwane’s through-ball. Hopes of Morocco’s comeback ended when Achraf Hakimi sent his penalty crashing against the bar and out of play. The Moroccans had earned the penalty after Mothobi Mvala’s 82nd minute handball.

Thereafter, the North Africans were down to 10 men as Sofyan Amrabat received a red card after fouling Tebogo Mokoena four minutes in added time. A minute later, from the resultant freekick, the Sundowns midfielder expertly placed his effort into the near-post pocket of the net. There was no way back into the game for the Walid Regragui’s men.

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Dealing with the threat of Morocco

Apart from that penalty wastage, Morocco had their moments to score. Earlier, Adli was presented with two clear-cut chances for Morocco but he fluffed them. So too was the case with Romain Saiss, Azzedine Ounahi and Abde Ezzalzouli. In the end, South Africa reached the quarterfinals to date unfancied Cape Verde on Saturday. Even if South Africans exit the tournament from the quarterfinal stage, this campaign can’t be called a flop as the doomsayers predicted. Bafana Bafana’s exploits at Afcon should deal huge blows to Broos’ critics.