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Bafana players training. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX
Bafana players training. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX

Bafana Bafana expect Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) surprise package Cape Verde will be as tough as Morocco as SA seek their first semifinal spot in 24 years.   

Bafana will meet the islanders in a battle for a spot in the last four at Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast on Saturday (10pm).    

The last time Bafana reached a Nations Cup semifinal was under Trott Moloto in Ghana and Nigeria in 2000. They lost 2-0 to Nigeria, then beat Tunisia on penalties to clinch third place.

They reached the quarterfinals at the next edition in 2002. Bafana then had a long wait for their next appearance in the last eight, which they have done three times in the past 11 years — in 2013 as hosts under Gordon Igesund, 2019 in Egypt under Stuart Baxter, and this year under Hugo Broos in Ivory Coast.

After dumping 2022 World Cup semi-finalists and Africa’s No 1-ranked team, Morocco, out in an epic 2-0 win in San Pedro on Tuesday, producing arguably the shock of an Afcon characterised by upsets, Bafana should feel confident they have a good chance of beating Cape Verde. 

But on-form Cape Verde — ranked 73rd in the world and 14th in Africa, but who beat Ghana and Morocco and drew against Egypt to top the group of death — might present a tougher challenge for Bafana (66th in the world, 12th in Africa) than the Atlas Lions.

SA’s players have acknowledged the tough challenge the Blue Sharks will present.    

Forward Evidence Makgopa, who opened his Nations Cup account by scoring Bafana’s first goal against Morocco, called for the Bafana players to keep their feet on the ground.

It will be crucial. In Egypt four years ago under Baxter, Bafana shocked the hosts in front of 80,000 supporters in the second round at Cairo International Stadium but could not keep the momentum going and lost to Nigeria in the quarterfinals.

SA have a habit of producing stunning results against big-name opposition but battling against sides with smaller reputations.

“We just have to keep our heads down and be focused on the next game and forget about the previous one. That will help us,” Makgopa said.   

“I have to improve from the previous game, but at the same time I have to focus on the next one and not dwell much on what has happened in the previous game and its result.”     

Utility player Thapelo Morena echoed Makgopa’s sentiment and stressed the need for proper preparation for Cape Verde.   

“The most important thing is to focus on the new chapter we have opened ... to go out there and grind [a positive] result,” Morena said. “We need to focus on the new game, try to get some more rest. We need to train well and have a good recovery.”     

Midfielder Thabang Monare believes the secret to the islanders’ success is a work ethic unmatched by their opponents in Ivory Coast. 

“Cape Verde are a very tough team and the more we progress, the tougher it’s going to get,” Monare said. “We’ve watched their games, and they are a team that is willing to work very hard. Playing against that kind of a team, you need to be on your A game.     

“They are really going to work hard, and we have to match that and beat that.”    

Bafana will also have to find a way to counter the physicality and aggression that has been a crucial aspect of the Sharks’ bite at Afcon.

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