Five takeaways from Bafana’s AFCON campaign

Bafana Bafana concluded their Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire with a third-placed finish to claim the bronze medal for the first time in 24 years.

They beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 6-5 on penalties following a goalless draw. Phakaaathi looks at five takeaways from the successful campaign under Hugo Broos.

Bafana Bafana fear factor restored on the continent

Bafana Bafana have redeemed some of the lost pride that had diminished in years gone by due to constant failures to deliver.

FIFA World Cup semifinalists Morocco were cautious against Bafana in last 16 round of the competition. And he Atlas Lions were sent crashing out following a 2-0 loss to Bafana. At some point during the match, the pre-tournament favourites were happy to sit back and let South Africa have the ball. It was the first time the North Africans didn’t play front-foot football and showed respect to any team during the tournament.

Nigeria might have reached the final at the expense of Bafana but they were also lucky to escape unscathed.

Bafana outplayed them and would have wrapped up the game had they been more clinical in front of goal. The Super Eagles also showed respect to Bafana with a cautious approach, something they wouldn’t have done in the past.

Bafana Bafana are back amongst the best in Africa

It was interesting to see football legends like Yaya Toure and Jay-Jay Okocha name South Africa as one of the favourites before the tournament started. That praise was backed up by the team who made it to the semifinal for the first time since 2000.

Not only did they knockout Morocco and Cape Verde to reach the last four but they also kept it tight at the back with five clean sheets in seven games. Namibia, Tunisia, Morocco, Cape Verde and the DRC all failed to breach Bafana’s defence.

The ’96 champions also showed character to recover from the 2-0 loss to Mali in what was their opening game of the campaign.

A lot will be expected from this group in the next edition of the tournament in Morocco. Reaching the semifinal was a marked improvement from the quarterfinal defeat to Nigeria in 2019 and the natural progression would be for Bafana to contest the final, because anything other than that would be a step backwards.

More quality needed upfront for Bafana to make the next step

There’s no doubt that Bafana would have been much stronger with the likes Lyle Foster and Lebogang Mothiba in the team. They both missed the tournament for different reasons. Foster stayed with his English club Burnley as he recovers from mental health problems while France-based forward Mothiba who plays for RC Strasbourg is injured.

Evidence Makgopa led the line and his only goal came against Morocco. Bafana needed more upfront to blow their opponents away.

Foster and Mothiba would have provided Hugo Broos with more options because other supporting strikers like Zakhele Lepasa simply didn’t offer much when given minutes from the bench. With better quality upfront, especially against Nigeria, Bafana could have been out of sight by half time.

Ronwen Williams leadership a big positive for Broos

For a player who made his debut in the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Brazil in 2014, Williams has developed into a great leader over the last decade.

When Bafana needed a hero, the 32-year-old stepped up and made some crucial saves to keep his country in the tournament.

His performances certainly gave the team a lift as he led from the back. Williams is expected to be amongst the top contenders for some of the individual awards when the competition concludes.

For any team to have a successful tournament, they need strong characters and a good leader to marshal his troops. Williams did that with flying colours to assert himself as one of the best goalkeepers on the African continent.

Feel good factor back amongst South Africans after Bafana’s brave showing

Often a target of jokes and abuse on social media, it was good to see the public change their tune and get behind the team.

It had been a while since Bafana enjoyed such unwavering support from South Africans who initially didn’t give them a chance to go this far.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the bronze medalists receives a good reception at the OR Tambo International Airport when they return from Ivory Coast on Wednesday.

The Rainbow Nation has renewed belief and hope in Bafana. Expectations have been raised and it would also be great to see the public supported fill up stadiums again when Bafana play at home.