A Closer Look At Bafana Bafana

Bafana Bafana drop to second place, Nigeria go top in AFCON qualifiers

Exciting, yet defining times await South Africa in this year’s AFCON showpiece in Egypt. 

This will be the first Nation’s Cup taking place during the off-season, while it will also be the first time that 24 teams will be participating in Africa’s biggest international tournament. Evidently, the last time the competition expanded was in 1996, which happens to be the only time that South Africa lifted the AFCON trophy.

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Now, with qualification past the group stages much more accessible, it should be much easier for Bafana Bafana to get past the first hurdle and perhaps go on to meet their expectation. The problem is, the nation seems to be divided in terms of what the real goal is to achieve.

Since hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010, South Africa have participated in just two major tournaments, with one being the 2013 African Cup of Nations, which they hosted as well. So, success doesn’t happen overnight, but perhaps the class of ’96 may argue differently as that became the start of something special for Bafana Bafana.
Could this group of players emulate Clive Barker’s triumph with the national team and write their names in history? Time will tell in Egypt…

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Group stage schedule
24/06/2019 South Africa vs Ivory Coast  Al-Salam Stadium          16:30
28/06/2019 South Africa vs Namibia  Al-Salam Stadium                22:00
01/07/2019 South Africa vs Morocco  Al-Salam Stadium               18:00

The Personnel

Goalkeepers: Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits)‚ Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United)‚ Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs)

Defenders: Daniel Cardoso (Kaizer Chiefs)‚ Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs)‚ Thulani Hlatshwayo (Bidvest Wits)‚ Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates)‚ Sifiso Hlanti (Bidvest Wits)‚ Buhle Mkhwanazi (Bidvest Wits)‚ Thamsanqa Mkhize (Cape Town City)

Bafana Bafana players posing before a game

Midfielders: Bongani Zungu (Amiens SC‚ France)‚ Hlompho Kekana (Sundowns)‚ Dean Furman (Supersport United)‚ Kamohelo Mokotjo (Brentford‚ England)‚ Tiyani Mabunda (Sundowns)‚ Thulani Serero (Vitesse‚ Netherlands)‚ Thembinkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates)‚ Themba Zwane (Sundowns)

Forwards: Lebogang Mothiba (Strasbourg‚ France)‚ Percy Tau (Union Saint-Gilloise‚ Belgium)‚ Lars Veldwijk (Sparta Rotterdam‚ Netherlands)‚ Lebohang Maboe (Sundowns)‚ Sibusiso Vilakazi (Sundowns)

Time To Unleash Our Lion

Unlike in previous generations, the amount of key players for Bafana Bafana seem to be slowly decreasing. Of course, the talent is still there, but in terms of going toe-to-toe with the big guns in Africa, we’re still some way off as a nation. 

This time around, very few people could argue against the fact that Percy Tau is Bafana’s key player heading into the AFCON. The Brighton & Hove Albion forward, who spent a season on loan at Royale Union Saint-Gilloise last term, winning the Proximus League Player of the Season award, scored four goals in ensuring South Africa qualify for the 2019 showpiece.

Bafana Bafana players Lebo Mothiba and Percy Tau hugging after a goal

The former Sundowns superstar has the ability to create a goal out of nothing, and with Tau expected to struggle again to get a work permit in England, many clubs across the world will be keeping close tabs on the 25-year-old.

His pace and trickery in the final third make him one of the finest players on the continent and after former Senegalese international, El Hadji Diouf, claimed that Tau has more talent than Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, now would be the perfect time to show the world that Diouf’s praise can be justified. At this point, it’s fair to say that the fate of the nation lies on Tau’s shoulders.

How did they qualify?

Bafana Bafana sealed their spot in Egypt by finishing second in Group E, one point behind Nigeria. Baxter’s men finished the qualifying stages with 12 points from six games, being the only unbeaten team in the group, while they also managed to beat every team along the way including a 6-0 hammering against Seychelles.

Anger Aside For One Last Time

Stuart Baxter has come under massive criticism since being appointed as the national team head coach of South Africa. From the reported R1 million being pocketed every month to the Englishman’s footballing tactics, it’s been negativity from day one. But, after Baxter met expectation by qualifying into the 2019 AFCON, he’s earned himself one more chance, and with this being the 65-year-old’s first major tournament at international level, it will be the perfect opportunity for him to silence all his doubters once and for all. Baxter’s style of play is very old-fashion, he believes in not being beaten before actually winning, which may not be the worse method of playing going into a knockout tournament. It may lack that extra ‘Kasi Flava’, it may not be easy on the eye, but it needs to be supported – for one last time, at least.

Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter

Stuart Baxter’s Bafana Bafana record since being re-appointed in 2017:

Games coached Won      Draw    Lost
      16                           6            4            6

Can We Conquer Africa?

We’d all be lying to ourselves if we still believe that South Africa are the same dominant force that they were back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Bafana Bafana won the ’96 AFCON, finished runners-up in ’98, then finished third in 2000 before qualifying for their second FIFA World Cup tournament in 2002. Now, South Africa is a side in turmoil. Very few players are serial winners and none of them have had any success with the national team. 

Apart from the few players who have represented Sundowns and Orlando Pirates in recent years, few actually have experience in African football. We have to be real and not build ourselves up to be let down again, which has been our downfall in recent times.

The big question being asked is: are Bafana Bafana going there to compete or are they going there to learn? For a long time now, all we’ve ever heard about was vision 2022, and what better preparation for the next edition of the FIFA World Cup than to rub shoulders with the fiercest and mightiest teams in Africa? With the competition changing its format to 24 teams, advancing past the group stage should be much easier, as four of the third best countries will also go through to the Round of 16. Still, that should not be the target. It should be a given.


From there, considering how Bafana Bafana do in Group D, the expectation should be to get to the quarter-final stage of the competition, while anything more than that will be a massive bonus. To answer the question posed earlier, we certainly are going there to compete, but competing doesn’t mean winning, we’re competing to do our best and learn every single lesson along the way which will see our players and head coach gain experience and be better-equipped to deal with further challenges that lie ahead and perhaps qualify for the next World Cup in 2022 and become an African giant once again.

Written by Jesse Nagel

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