Mali 2-0 Bafana Bafana: 4 things we learned

Mali 2-0 Bafana Bafana: 4 things we learned
Credit: Icon Sport

South Africa's Bafana Bafana suffered a 2-0 loss to Mali in their opening 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Group E match on Tuesday night.

Percy Tau failed in his penalty duties for Hugo Broos‘ side in the first-half, a chance wasted that ended up costing Bafana Bafana all three points as a six minutes scoring precision from Mali early on in the second half condemned the 1996 champions to bottom of the group.

After it's all said and done, here are four lessons learned from Tuesday's defeat.

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Four lessons in Bafana Bafana's disappointing AFCON opener

It's not the end for South Africa, they can still qualify

The current AFCON tournament is showcasing just how African football is becoming tougher, and Bafana Bafana will by no means take the Namibians as pushovers especially after seeing how they handled Tunisia.

With this in mind, Broos' side can take a giant step towards qualification with a win over their neighbours next Sunday and then try to also repeat such a feat in their last game against the Carthage Eagles, this will ensure outright passage into the knockout stage.

Bafana Bafana's defense needs attention

After conceding twice against the Malians, Bafana have now taken in six goals in their last five games. On another day, the scoreline could have been worse as the back four struggled to clear their lines against the pressure mounted by the opposition.

It took five saves from Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams to keep the score in a respectable manner, and this is something Broos should work on before they take on the Brave Warriors of Namibia.

Bafana Bafana should involve Evidence Makgopa more in their game

The biggest chance for South Africa came from a daring run into the box from the Orlando Pirates striker which was ultimately missed by Tau. The 23-year-old is full of energy and desire to hit giant strides in Bafana colours, but his lack of services in the game thwarted further impactful actions from the lad.

The summary of how Makgopa was not fully involved is evident in his two efforts that resulted in a shot off target, a shot blocked, and just 23 touches in the 73 minutes he was on the field of play. To be fair, he could have done a lot better had the chances that fell to Tau came his way.

Bafana Bafana midfielders held their own

The midfield pairing of Bafana Bafana went toe-to-toe with Aliou Dieng, Yves Bissouma, Amadou Haidara and Kamory Doumbia who all plied their trade in Europe.

Aside from Sphephelo Sithole, every midfielder in the South lineup played in the Premier Soccer League but were surprisingly not overrun as these guys held their own, and created a fair couple of decent chances, the best of which fell to Tau who failed to make anything out of three shots on target.

Themba Zwane, Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole all delivered one key pass each in the game, while Thapelo Maseko gave two key passes, the most by any of Bafana's middle men.


While Broos might have other ideas for the next game, his team didn't particularly play badly. All they need is to be clinical in front of the goal, a bit of a water-tight shift at the back, and a proper connection with Makgopa in attack if he makes the starting lineup against Namibia.

This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.