Bafana off to winning start in World Cup qualifying campaign
Bafana Bafana got their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign off to a promising start when they beat Benin 2-1 in a match dominated by Hugo Broos’s side in every aspect except scoring more goals.
Percy Tau capped his 40th appearance in a Bafana shirt with a goal, the Al Ahly attacker scoring his 14th goal for the national team. Mamelodi Sundowns right-back Khuliso Mudau increased Bafana’s lead on the stroke of halftime, tapping home after Tau and Themba Zwane combined around Benin’s area.
Bafana were guilty of gifting Benin skipper Steve Mounie his side’s consolation goal in the 69th minute, with dependable midfielder Teboho Mokoena losing possession in front of Ronwen Williams’ goal.
Leading up to this clash, Broos spoke about Bafana needing to start on a good note if they were to mount a serious challenge and correct the mistakes they made in 2021 when they failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Bafana last qualified for the global showpiece 21 years ago, but in this campaign they have a bigger chance as Africa has nine automatic spots in the 2026 event instead of the usual five.
With nine more matches to go, including Tuesday’s trip to Rwanda, there’s still a long way for Bafana and Broos to realise the country’s dream. But the win here puts Bafana in the driving seat in group C, which includes Zimbabwe, Lesotho and their old nemesis Nigeria, who were shocked by Lesotho in their opening qualifier on Thursday.
Nigeria played a 1-1 draw against SA’s neighbours while Zimbabwe earned a point in their 0-0 draw with Rwanda ahead of their match on Monday against the Super Eagles in Rwanda.
Broos did say Bafana may not need to beat Nigeria to qualify from this group as countries regarded as minnows (because of their ranking) are capable of springing a surprise or two, just as Lesotho did to the Super Eagles in Abuja on Thursday.
This victory gives Bafana confidence going into their second qualifier against Rwanda in Uye on Tuesday. A win there will keep them on top of group C ahead of resuming qualification in June in 2024 with a trip to Nigeria.
While Broos will be happy with the win, the Belgian tactician will be hugely frustrated that Bafana conceded and failed to add to Tau and Mudau’s goals despite their domination. Bafana had numerous opportunities to score, especially in the first half, but Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Zwane and Tau opted to have too many extra touches around the area when a shot would have done the trick.
There were also anxious moments for Broos when his defence, which started with a central pairing of Siyanda Xulu and Mothobi Mvala, often lost possession when they tried to build from the back alongside Williams.
Broos prefers to move the ball quicker to the opposition half, but looked irritated when his players took their time trying to penetrate down the middle, where Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole operated.
Broos started the match with Orlando Pirates striker Evidence Makgopa ahead of his Pirates teammate Zakhele Lepasa.
Watched by a vociferous crowd of 15,000, Bafana showed glimpses of how good they can be if they are a sharper in front of goal.
Benin came with a plan to force a draw, but conceding early forced the West African visitors to come out of their shell to try cancel Tau’s goal. Mounie’s goal did give Benin some belief, but Bafana did well to hold on to their slim victory.
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