Shadows of Ivory: Bafana Bafana’s enigmatic quest in AFCON 2023

Shadows of Ivory: Bafana Bafana’s enigmatic quest in AFCON 2023
Credit: Icon Sport

In the quest for redemption and progression in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023, the South African men's senior national team, Bafana Bafana, finds itself at a critical juncture after a disheartening 2-0 loss to Mali in their opening match.

The defeat places them at the bottom of Group E, alongside leaders Mali, second-placed Namibia, and third-placed Tunisia.

As they gear up for a pivotal clash against Namibia on Sunday evening in Ivory Coast, the pressure is palpable, and the need for a positive result is paramount.

Midfielder Sphephelo Sithole, one of the three overseas-based players in the squad, recognizes the significance of securing a victory against Namibia.

Sithole emphasizes, “In this case, I think we need to win the game to be on the safe side, but a win can be more than good enough for us.”

The sentiments echo the collective determination within the team to turn the tide and enhance their chances of advancing to the round of 16.

Teboho Mokoena, another key midfielder for Bafana Bafana, acknowledges the importance of avoiding defeat against Namibia to stay alive in the tournament.

While he stops short of labeling it a “must-win” situation, Mokoena emphasizes, “It’s not really a must-win, but we must get a result against Namibia, of course. I won’t be happy, but we must not lose.”

Analyzing Bafana Bafana's defeat: Tactical dominance in first half, physical challenges in the second

Bafana Bafana team photo
Credit: Icon Sport

Reflecting on the opening game against Mali, Sithole analyzes the tactical aspects and acknowledges the team's dominance in the first half.

However, he points out that the opponents became more aggressive in the second half, exploiting the physical aspect where Bafana Bafana faced challenges.

“The first game was more difficult because the opponent knew what our strength but I think in the first half we dominated the game and coming into the second half they were more aggressive on us which helped them to control the game,” he stated.

The missed penalty by experienced vice-captain Percy Tau in the first half adds a layer of missed opportunities, and Sithole believes there is room for improvement in the upcoming match.

Mokoena concurs, stating, “I still feel we could have done better, but we still have another opportunity to do better in the second game.”

Teboho Mokoena of South Africa challenged by Sikou Niakate of Mali
Credit: Icon Sport

The consensus among the players is that the first match highlighted deficiencies in their physicality, and they are eager to rectify those shortcomings against Namibia.

“First half tactically we were good we created some few chances but second half they were more physical they managed to beat us because in physicality we are not very strong it’s a tough one to swallow of course I watched the game I still feel we could have done better but we still have another opportunity to do better in the second game,” Mokoena stated.

Bafana Bafana's camp in Korhogo, Ivory Coast, has garnered praise from both Sithole and Mokoena for its organization and facilities.

The positive environment provides the team with the necessary support as they aim to replicate their success from the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, where they reached the round of 16.

The road ahead is challenging, but with resilience and strategic adjustments, Bafana Bafana is poised for a spirited battle, aiming not only for redemption but also for a chance to progress in AFCON 2023.

This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago

Rababe Koussaimi, a 22-year-old football journalist, is deeply passionate about the world of sports. The Moroccan journalist channels her enthusiasm into writing and conducting extensive research, creating insightful and engaging content for GoalBallLive readers.