Faith in the national football team will take a while to be completely restored, but the embers of hope are glowing brighter with each game Bafana Bafana play.
Belgian coach Hugo Broos has embraced the task of reigniting the flame and the value of the rebuilding exercise he has embarked on since his appointment in May was evident again on Saturday when Bafana won 3-1 away against Ethiopia in a 2022 World Cup qualifier.
It was a solid team display and the coach was pleased that his charges shrugged off the difficulties of negotiating an uneven pitch to win comfortably.
The visitors struggled to play their normal game on the bumpy surface and could have found themselves trailing early in the first half had it not been for some fine goalkeeping by captain Ronwen Williams.
While he was happy with the win, the Bafana coach voiced his displeasure with the Ethiopians’ decision to play the match at the multipurpose Bahir Dar Stadium in Bahir Dar.
“We were a little afraid when the ball was coming back and we needed to control it. We were not confident like we were against Ghana [in the 1-0 home win at FNB Stadium last month],” Broos said.
“I don’t understand that for such an important game Ethiopia are coming to play us here on this pitch. It’s also not good for them because they are a team that plays football. It is not kick and rush football that they play. And on this field, you can do nothing else other than kick and rush because it is very difficult.”
Williams’s heroics kept Bafana in the match and Ethiopia could have made things a lot more difficult for the visitors had the East Africans found a way past the SA goalkeeper in the frantic opening minutes.
The SuperSport United goalkeeper was called to action when the troublesome Surafel Dagnachew unleashed a venomous curling shot from outside the area. It deceptively dipped but Williams produced a one-handed save to tip it over the crossbar.
Williams produced another stunning save when he denied Abubeker Nasir from point-blank range. The Ethiopians sliced through the Bafana rearguard and after Dagnachew picked out his compatriot, Nasir peeled away and only had Williams to beat to put the East Africans in the lead. But the keeper denied him with a brilliant save.
Bafana pulled up their socks after those early escapes and Teboho Mokoena put the visitors ahead through a free kick in the 45th minute.
Ethiopia captain Getaneh Kebede levelled matters for the home side in the 67th minute, but Bafana regained the lead and then won comfortably after goals from Mothobi Mvala and substitute Evidence Makgopa in the 71st minute and in referee’s optional time.
While it comfortable winning margin in the end, Broos said his players did not fully execute the game plan. The performance was “not really 100%, but I'm not angry about that”.
The Belgian said he was pleased with the fight shown by his players away from home and in tough conditions.
“Certainly, because it was a very difficult game, on a very difficult pitch. I said it before the game to the players we don’t need the trophy of best football player in the team. But we need the trophy of the team with the most character.
“And we showed that character, we showed the mentality, even when Ethiopia equalised. We fight for every ball, and we won and it’s a great win.”
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