Bafana’s strong comeback against Ivory Coast
A hostile away crowd proved more motivational than an empty home stadium for SA’s national team
It always seemed likely Bafana Bafana could put in a better performance in their second friendly in October in Abidjan.
The brittle South Africans bounced back from a woeful display in their 0-0 home draw against minnows Eswatini on Friday with Tuesday night’s far more promising 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast at Houphouet-Boigny Stadium.
The choice of the cavernous FNB Stadium for the first game against minnows Eswatini — given crowds had been appalling there for last month’s 0-0 draw against Namibia and 1-0 win over Democratic Republic of Congo — seemed likely to see a few hundred people attend.
That, along with the “lower” standing of the opposition in the players’ minds, seemed likely to produce a flat performance.
Against the star-studded hosts of the next Africa Cup of Nations, in a packed stadium in Abidjan, Bafana raised their performance by many notches. Even a hostile away crowd is better motivation to players than an empty home stadium.
The SA Football Association’s (Safa) choice of FNB for the first game, and lining up of 144th-ranked Eswatini, were not optimal from a planning perspective for a national team that has important assignments forthcoming in November’s start of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers and the Nations Cup in January and February.
“As angry as I was on Friday is how happy I am tonight,” Bafana coach Hugo Broos said on Tuesday night.
“I think SA played a very good game against a very good team. There was a good mentality on the pitch and they played good football. It was not only defending. The way we sometimes attacked, we put Ivory Coast in trouble.
“It’s a pity in the second half we missed the bigger chance of the game, otherwise it would have been 2-0 and we would have won.
“But I said to the players before, ‘Look, try to have a result, but try first to have a good performance’, and we had a good performance tonight.”
The schizophrenic nature of their performances in the past six days might leave Bafana supporters still confused about the team’s prospects for the World Cup qualifiers and Nations Cup for which these four matches were preparation.
Broos conceded Bafana’s focus needs to improve against smaller opposition.
“That’s maybe a step that this team has to take — that if you’re playing against a weaker team, you need the same focus, concentration and mentality as when you play against Ivory Coast,” he said.
As angry as I was on Friday is how happy I am tonight. I think SA played a very good game against a very good team.Hugo Broos, Bafana coach
That aside, an unbeaten run for the senior combination — excluding second-string sides’ participation in the African Nations Championship and Cosafa Cup — now goes back to their 2-1 Nations Cup qualifying loss against Morocco in Rabat on June 9 2022, 11 matches ago.
Broos’s side have won six and drew five of those. Without allowing over-optimism — never a good idea for a national team that has mostly disappointed for the better part of two decades — that is one of the better records Bafana have had going into a Nations Cup final.
There is something there for Broos to work with. Themba Zwane scored in Abidjan, and the veteran’s experience and ability could be crucial when Bafana return to Ivory Coast early in 2024. Lebo Mothiba’s return — he looked sharp against the Elephants — has provided class and danger to an attack where Broos has Zakhele Lepasa, Percy Tau and Lyle Foster to deploy.
How much the coach has to work with will be revealed in the coming weeks and months.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.