Four things we learned as Bafana Bafana came third in AFCON 2023

Four things we learned as Bafana Bafana came third in AFCON 2023
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South Africa's Bafana Bafana capped off the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) tournament with a third-place penalty shootout victory against the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday night.

Since the 2-0 loss to Mali in their opening Group E match, Bafana Bafana have not played as badly as they did in the third-place matchup against the Congolese where both sides were inseparable, playing out 0-0 after 90 minutes to send the game straight to penalty kicks.

Despite South Africa's uncharacteristic play of not showing enough interest in winning in regular time, they got the job done during the shootouts all thanks to the heroics of Ronwen Williams who made two saves to ensure Bafana Bafana got the bronze medal which they last won in 2000.

Here are four key lessons derived from the encounter!

Ronwen Williams has cemented his place as one of Bafana Bafana's all-time best goalkeepers

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Ronwen Williams is a top contender for goalkeeper of the tournament following his impressive displays all through the competition.
The Mamelodi Sundowns shot-stopper kept his fifth clean sheet in seven AFCON matches in the goalless draw against DR Congo.

The 32-year-old would go on to make two big saves during the penalty shootout win which ultimately confirmed Bafana Bafana as the third best team in AFCON 2023.

His performances during the competition certainly puts him as one of the all-time best goalies in South African football.

The best team lost

The encounter between DR Congo and South Africa was largely one-sided as changes to Hugo Broos' starting XI gave the Leopards the upper hand at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

In a match no one wants to be involved in, the Congolese showcased enough zeal to win as they held South Africa at the scuff of their necks with many dangerous attacks that yielded nothing.

Sebastien Desabre's outfit registered 13 shots with just three of them going on target. They created lots of scoring chances which they failed to utilize. And in Jose Mourinho's words, “the best team lost” because they could have easily won the game in normal time.

Bafana Bafana player ratings
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Bafana Bafana should endeavor to win games in normal time

From what we have seen in this tournament, the team does not really have good penalty takers amongst their ranks.

Just like in the loss against Nigeria on penalties, Teboho Mokoena missed the team's first shot which handed the advantage to the opposition.

It took the bravery of Williams in goal to deny the Leopards the chance to come third in the tournament.

In competitions like this, the team needs to try as much as possible to win games in regular time because during penalty shootouts, it becomes anybody's game to win.

Hugo Broos deserves all the credits

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When Broos announced his 23-man Africa Cup of Nations squad in December last year, no one expected South Africa to go as far as the semi-finals.

Despite the odds, the Belgian gaffer was able to turn his team to a winning machine even after their opening day loss to Mali.

It's worth mentioning that 21 players from the squad ply their trade in the country's domestic league. No other squad in the competition has as many players coming from the domestic league as Broos' team.

The 71-year-old had faith in the players and he turned them to winners, building a team that can now go toe-to-toe against the big guns on the continent. Also, his tactical decisions throughout the tournament were good. Broos deserves all the credits!

Next up for Bafana Bafana

After reflecting on their wonderful journey and display in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Bafana Bafana will be back in action next month.

Broos' team will take on Andorra and Algeria in friendlies to prepare themselves ahead of their crunch FIFA World Cup Qualifiers coming up in June.

South Africa will trade tackles against the Super Eagles of Nigeria away from home before entertaining Zimbabwe at home.

This article was most recently revised and updated 5 months ago

Joseph is a freelance writer who spends most of his time writing engaging football contents. Based in Nigeria, Joseph is a die-hard Real Madrid fan with over 8 years experience in the sports betting space. He has covered football match previews, predictions, and news across leagues in Africa and Europe.