Bafana Bafana rewarded the thousands of fans who descended on Free State Stadium with a top-class performance as they beat Zimbabwe 3-1 in a pulsating 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.

Coach Hugo Broos’ charges signaled their intentions very early in the game when Iqraam Rayners scored the opening goal of the match inside the first minute.

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Free State Stadium erupted into pandemonium as the fans celebrated the home team’s dream start to the game.
But Zimbabwe responded a minute later when Tawanda Chirewa scored the equaliser to momentarily put a damper on the celebrations. The home side went in search of the goal that would have restored their lead but could not find the breakthrough they needed. The two teams went into the break still deadlocked at 1-1.

The South African senior men’s team returned with more purpose in the second period and substitute Thapelo Morena regained the lead with his strike in the 55th minute. Morena put the game beyond the visitors when he scored his second of the night and the third for Bafana Bafana when he scored in the 76th minute.

Bafana Bafana beat Zimbabwe at a packed Free State Stadium
Bafana Bafana players

EXCITEMENT AS BAFANA BAFANA BEAT ZIMBABWE IN MANGAUNG

The Bloemfontein fans delivered a memorable night from the stands for the Bafana Bafana players and technical staff as they sang their lungs out, cheered the team and gave fervent support from the stands.

The South Africans are now second in qualifying FIFA World Group C with seven points. They are level on points with group leaders Rwanda due to goal difference.

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has named his final 23-member squad for the FIFA Series international friendlies pilot project in Algeria. The FIFA event will run from 18 to 26 March 2024.

Coach Broos said it is a great opportunity to call some new players to the South African senior men’s team.

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“Certainly, I am also looking to the future,” he said.

“I said it already, there are a few players in our group who will be 35, 34, and 36 when the FIFA World Cup is jointly hosted in Canada, Mexico and the United States of America in 2026.

“So yes, we have to look for replacements also. Firstly, we have to see those games as an opportunity to give new players, younger players, to show if they are at Bafana Bafana level.”

“Secondly, we are playing against two different styles of opponents. On one side you have Andorra and you can compare them to Namibia. So, a tough team, a team who will wait and try to be dangerous in transition.

“On the other side, you have Algeria, ranked fifth in the CAF rankings. So that means you have two different styles, and it is good for the South African senior men’s team, certainly also to play against Andorra, but certainly to play against such a good team like Algeria.”

“They have a new coach, they will have new players also in their selection. So, it will be a good test for those new players who are with us to prove themselves. Therefore, those friendly games are important, and you have to get the results if you want to keep your 10th place or maybe progress even further in the CAF ranking.”

BAFANA BAFANA SQUAD FOR ALGERIA FRIENDLIES IN ALGERIA

Coach Broos’ charges play the first match against Andorra at the 19 May 1956 Stadium in Annaba, Algeria, on Thursday, 21 March 2024. They then face the hosts at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers on Tuesday, 26 March 2024 before returning home on the following day.

Bafana Bafana walked away with the bronze medal after a third-place finish at the AFCON in Ivory Coast. This is after beating DR Congo 6-5 on penalties in the tournament third-place play-off on Saturday night.

Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams once again led from the front as he saved two penalties during the penalty shootout. He saved the final kick from Meschak Elia during sudden death to win the match for the South Africans.

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The South African senior men’s team captain has been reluctant to take credit for his heroics during the tournament. But will accept that his contribution was crucial.

The two sides created a number of opportunities during the match. With a bit of luck in front of goal, the match could have been wrapped up inside 90 minutes.

The game finished at 0-0 and went straight to penalties. After the two sides could not break the deadlock during regulation time, it was left up to Williams to once again step up to the plate and deliver.

THIRD PLACE FINISH FOR BAFANA BAFANA AT THE AFCON 

Williams kept his fifth clean sheet in a single AFCON and in the process broke former goalkeeper Andre Arendse’s record.

Bafana Bafana will return to South Africa in the coming days after a tough campaign that quietly began in January with a training camp in Stellenbosch.

TROTT MOLOTO believes Hugo Broos’ Bafana Bafana will succeed where his own men failed 24 years ago by progressing to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) via victory over Nigeria on Wednesday evening.

The last coach to earn South Africa a medal at the biennial continental tournament, Moloto has been impressed by the current crop of the senior national team and is confident they will get the better of the Super Eagles in Bouake, Ivory Coast tonight (7pm kick-off).

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“For sure, they will,” Moloto said without hesitation when asked what he thinks the result will be. “Hugo Broos has a very strong team that he has managed to put into a great unit. We have a well-trained and well-prepared team. And I believe the boys will go out there and individually put up their hands and stand tall for their country as a collective. I am not scared of Nigeria for Wednesday’s match.”

And the man who was among the first players from Limpopo to turn professional was not scared of Nigeria back in 2000 when he led Bafana against the Super Eagles in a failed attempt to reach a third successive CAF AFCON final.

“As a team, we had the belief we could beat Nigeria back then. We had a strong team with players playing all over Europe and those who were at home played for the top class and were big name players too. We played very good football and we had beaten another host Ghana in the quarterfinals, so we were confident even though Nigeria were highly-rated and had quality players.”

Ex-Bafana Bafana coach Trott Moloto says South Africa will beat Nigeria
Former Bafana Bafana coach Trott Moloto

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A poor start that saw Nigeria take the lead in the opening minute, however, threw the proverbial spanner in the works of Moloto’s well-laid game plan.

“Of course, it becomes very hard when you concede as early as we did and we lost that match because of the unnecessary mistakes we made at the wrong times, not because we were not good enough. And it was not as though Nigeria were much stronger and overpowering us too. Looking back, I believe we really had a good game and were very competitive. We just did not succeed where it mattered most. But that’s the nature of football.”

He feels that Nigeria are in debt to South Africa and is trusting on Ronwen Williams and his troops to exact sweet revenge on behalf of his team for what transpired back in 2000.

TROTT MOLOTO TIPS BAFANA BAFANA TO GET REVENGE AGAINST NIGERIA

“Nigeria owes us big time and they are going to pay. I know that we have a brave captain in Ronwen who will not be scared and will do something great to inspire the team. He leads from the back and reads the game very well. So he will be the one telling his teammates what exactly it is they need to do. And he has an amazing back four in front of him that has shown time and time again that they can compete with everyone,” Moloto said before rattling out the strengths of the back five – inclusive of the goalkeeper – who all play for the club he works for Mamelodi Sundowns and highlighting the individual brilliance of the midfielders and forwards to illustrate the potency that Broos has as his disposal to get the better of Nigeria.

“Hugo Broos has done a great job with this team and I believe we will win,” said the man who won South Africa a bronze medal via a third-place finish back in 2000, the last time Bafana brought home something from the AFCON.

By Matshelane Mamabolo

STANLEY NWABALI would do well to not ‘bite the hand that feeds’ him on Wednesday evening else he should not bother coming back, right? I have faith that Siviwe ‘Chippa’ Mpengesi will do what he is famous for and ‘pull the trigger’ on the Nigerian goalkeeper should he break our hearts.

After all, it’s been done before – a club terminating the contract of a player because he made a telling contribution in helping his home nation eliminate the country in which he plies his club trade from a major tournament.

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Nwabali, the Chippa United number one, has been in stellar form for the Super Eagles at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) taking place in the Ivory Coast. He will once again be expected to play a crucial role when the three-time CAF champions take on Bafana Bafana in the semifinal in Bouake.

Such has been the big man’s showing that the pre-tournament favourites have been breached just once in their five matches. Nwabali’s importance was illustrated by the panic that befell Nigeria when he had to leave the pitch injured in the last-16 encounter against Cameroon. But the Super Eagles’ medical team clearly worked their magic as the 27-year-old was back in goals to help steer the three-time champions past Angola into the penultimate stage of the biennial, continental tournament.

You can bet he will start against Bafana on Wednesday evening. After all, why would coach Jose Peseiro go with another player when he has what could well be described as ‘an enemy within’ given Nwabali’s knowledge of South African football.

The Portuguese tactician’s decision to make him his number one came about after he’d spent time at Chippa United watching the Chilli Boys’ goalkeeper at training and in matches. Peseiro was looking to remedy a poor last line of defence situation that was threatening to be an Achilles heel for the Super Eagles as they prepared to become champions of Africa for the first time in 11 years. And he seems to have succeeded.

BAFANA BAFANA FACE OFF AGAINST STANLEY NWABALI AT AFCON SEMIS

The discerning DSTV Premiership follower would have been surprised by Nwabali’s splendid performances for Nigeria though given he has not necessarily lit up the local stage.

 Last year, in the first half of the 2023/24 season, he played in 15 of Chippa’s 16 matches and let in 14 goals although he kept seven clean sheets in those. Not that it was his fault entirely, for the reality is that the Chilli Boys’ defence and that of the Super Eagles are like chalk and cheese.

Nwabali will, no doubt though, have insight into Bafana to not only share with his defence but also to use it to continue being the star goalkeeper he has been at the tournament.

Should he do that, Mpengesi must pull a Luciano Gaucci on Nwabali, right?

The goalkeeper would probably not be aware of this. He was – after all – just six years old back in 2002 when South Korea co-hosted the FIFA World Cup with Japan and reached the semifinal.

En route to that incredible feat, the Koreans beat Italy 2-1 in the round of 16 via a golden goal scored by Ahn Jung-hwan. At the time the player was on loan to Serie A side Peruggia and, in what was seen as retaliation, club owner Gaucci cancelled the player’s contract. He was reported as saying he has ‘no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football’.

Well, we all know that Chippa Mpengesi does not pay a salary to anyone (coaches in particular) who ruins his club’s progress, right? Now surely, he is a patriot who – like all of us – wants Bafana to reach the final and will thus not take kindly to anyone who stops them in that quest. And should that particular person be an employee of his, Bra Chippa will send him swelling the ranks of the unemployed, won’t he?

Hey Nwabali, they love you down in Gqeberha bhuti (brother) and have been delighted by your showing for Nigeria. And they are looking forward to having you back and pulling off similar heroics for the Chilli Boys so they can move up the table away from the relegation zone.

But on Wednesday night, do remember not to bite the hand that feeds you, okay?

By Matshelane Mamabolo

Bafana Bafana are through to the AFCON semi-finals following a 2-1 win against Cape Verde 2-1 on penalties on Saturday night.

Captain Ronwen Williams saved four penalties during a tense quarter-final match at Stade Charles Konan Stadium.

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Both sides started brightly in an open first half. But stellar defending and top-class goalkeeping from Williams and Cape Verde’s Vozinha kept the game goalless at the break.

The second half followed a similar pattern as the teams traded blows in search of a breakthrough. But a combination of desperation and brilliant defending saw numerous chances go begging. 

Cape Verde almost stole it in added time when Gelson Tavares pounced on a deep ball only to smash his shot off the bar with Williams getting a hand to it. 0-0 after 90 minutes meant extra time.

Bafana Bafana are through to the AFCON semi-finals
Ronwen Williams produce a stunning save

The additional 30 minutes brought more chances, with South Africa’s Mihlali Mayambela forcing a superb save from Vozinha. But the deadlock remained to send the quarter-final into penalties.

BAFANA BAFANA REACH THE AFCON SEMI-FINALS IN 24 YEARS

South Africa reached the CAF AFCON semi-finals for the first time in 24 years. They will face Nigeria in the semi-finals at Stade de la Paix in Bouaké on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast will meet the Democratic Republic of Congo in the other semi-final in Abidjan.

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has warned his troops to guard against complacency ahead of the AFCON last Group E match against Tunisia on Wednesday. South Africa are on the verge of qualification to the last 16 if they avoid defeat against the North Africans. 

They currently sit at position two with three points, tied with Namibia who are in third position. 

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“It was a great game [against Namibia on Sunday] and a good win. Goal difference counts and we are happy with the result,” Broos was quoted by the SAFA media. 

“We know what we need to do, the team knows what they need to do and the changes made on the day were tactical and needed. We will do the same against Tunisia. Every opponent we study and improve on our plan,” he said. 

Hugo Broos has warned Bafana Bafana against complacency
Hugo Broos, coach of South Africa during the 2023 African Cup of Nations South Africa Training Session at the Lycee Moderne, Korhogo on the 23 January 2024 ©SAFAMedia


BAFANA BAFANA WARNED AGAINST COMPLACENCY AHEAD OF TUNISIA CLASH 

Meanwhile, defender Grant Kekana says playing alongside his teammates in the back-five makes life easier. Kekana made the starting line-up for the clash against Namibia in place on Siyanda Xulu.

“It is easy when the backline is Modiba, Mvala and Mudau,” he said.

“These are my club buddies and when we play for our county, it does come naturally and easier because of how well we know each other. We train together just about every day,” said the Limpopo-born defender.

Bafana Bafana had a few days’ rest since their match against Namibia. That’s one less than their opponents Tunisia. The clash against Tunisia will kick off at 19:00 SA time, the same time as the match between Mali and Tunisia. 

By the end of Wednesday, all nations who have qualified for the last 16 round would have been confirmed.

Bafana Bafana squad gathered in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, on the first day of camp ahead of the AFCON this month.

The players and team personnel joined the camp and then travelled to Stellenbosch on Friday. This is ahead of the preparations for the continental tournament. It will be held in Côte d’Ivoire from 13 January to 11 February 2024.

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Coach Hugo Broos named his final 23-man squad in late December. The wine lands – at the University of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape – will now be the venue for the start of the preparations ahead of the event.

“I am happy that all the players are present with three (Jaden Adams, Oswin Appollis and Mihlali Mayambela) joining us in Cape Town, and we will then have a full squad.

“I’m confident in my team, the upbeat spirit among them and the big smiles presented on arrival in camp is encouraging,” said Broos. 

Bafana Bafana in high spirits as they assemble in camp for Afcon
Evidence Makgopa and Grant Kekana

“If this is anything to go by, it is the start of what is going to be a successful campaign. But we have hard work ahead of us, there is no doubt about that.”

BAFANA BAFANA CAMP GETS UNDERWAY AHEAD OF AFCON 

The team will be based in Stellenbosch from 5-9 January 2024. They will then travel back to Johannesburg on the morning of 10 January to play a friendly match against Lesotho behind closed doors at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.

They will then head to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on 11 January and finally settle at their base camp in Korhogo on 12 January 2024 ahead of the start of the tournament on the following day.

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos has announced his preliminary squad for next year’s CAF Afcon in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Belgian mentor announced a 50-man preliminary squad that will be trimmed to 23 players at the beginning of the new year. This will be shortly before departure to the West African country.

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The 34th edition of the biennial continental tournament will be held in Côte d’Ivoire from 13 January to Sunday 11 Feb 2024.

Broos’ charges will assemble for camp on 4 January 2024. They will then travel to Stellenbosch for a training camp. It will be held in the Western Cape city until 9 January 2024.

Bafana Bafana will then play a training match against Lesotho behind closed doors at the Lucas Moripe Stadium. This is before departing for Côte d’Ivoire on 11 January 2024.

2023 AFCON BAFANA BAFANA PRELIMINARY SQUAD:

Hugo Broos names Bafana Bafana Afcon preliminary squad
Bafana preliminary squad

Football agent Rob Moore has shared his view on why Njabulo Blom hasn’t been called-up to the Bafana Bafana team recently. This is despite having a good season at St Louis City SC.

Bafana head coach Hugo Broos believes that the former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder has a bad attitude hence he couldn’t be part of the team for 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. However, Moore is convinced that Broos is not getting the right information regarding Blom injury.

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“It’s either Hugo Broos is not getting the right information regarding Njabulo Blom. The club did medical testing and the medical opinion was that Njabulo must not worry because he would be okay by the time he was meant to go to Bafana camp,” said Moore at Metro FM with Andile Ncube.

“It’s hard for Blom to defend himself on the statements made by coach Broos. If he cannot even have a meeting with the coach so he can explain his side of the story. Maybe Blom is not one of the coaches favourite players”

WHY IS HUGO BROOS SNUBBING NJABULO BLOM FROM THE BAFANA BAFANA SQUAD?

Rob Moore on Njabulo Blom latest Bafana Bafana snub
Hugo Broos

This all happened within a period of Monday to Wednesday. The club said that Blom doesn’t need a certificate because the nature of the injury was that he would be okay to play for Bafana. It’s not difficult to see the match in question. Njabulo injured his shoulder during that match and was taken off” 

“The first time, SAFA chose to not believe the player. His club when Blom had covid and this was confirmed by his club. Certainly, Njabulo Blom is not a liar. If Blom is not his player or not the coaches cup of tea then perhaps coach Broos must say that”

With a month to go before the Afcon begin at Ivory Coast it’s unclear whether Blom will be part of the team.

By Katleho Hlalele