AFCON: Bafana must overcome injuries, mental fatigue in third-place playoff

Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos during a training session.

Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos. Picture: Sia Kambou / AFP

Published Feb 10, 2024


Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos will have to manage manage a psychologically fragile squad for their final game of the Africa Cup of Nations tonight.

After Bafana’s disappointing penalty shoot-out exit at the hands of Nigeria in Wednesday’s semi-final, Bafana will have to jostle with the Democratic Republic of Congo in the third-place play-off at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan (10pm kick-off).

The heartbreak of an otherwise amazing run in the competition was visibly present in the body language of the SA squad, as well as the reactions after the match.

Broos, 71, will have the difficult task of pulling together a strong team to face the Leopards, with dejected bodies and spirits in the Bafana camp.

The South Africans will also have added worries regarding injuries and suspensions that occurred in both the quarter- and semi-final.

Speaking to the media yon Friday, Broos said he felt his side’s “unnecessary” participation in the playoff would demand a lot of mental fitness from both teams.

“The game (tonight) is special. It depends a little on which team will be mentally the most recovered from what happened on Wednesday,” Broos said at the press conference.

“It’s also for DRC, (Wednesday) has been a disappointing evening (as they lost to the Ivory Coast in their semi-final). If you ask my advice, this game should not be played.”

He added: “The most important thing in a tournament like this is number one.

“If you are number three or number four tomorrow, for me, it’s exactly the same – because this is only first specifics.

“Number one is important, and number one you always remember. So again, I hope that my players will have recovered enough from Wednesday.

“There will be some players not available, so there will be change in the team. Thapelo Maseko was injured; two games ago for him, the tournament was finished.

“We got the red card for Grant Kekana, so he will not be available.

“We have three or four players with injuries. So, we have to wait till last training to see if they will be available for the game.”

Bafana have not been to the last four of the continent’s showpiece since 2000. Emerging from the group stages and then going on to knock out Morocco turned this tournament into a dream for the country.

Sitting next to his coach, experienced Bafana Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu could not help but be proud of the strides the national side have made over recent years.

“We wanted to go as far as we could. We know very well of our quality, and especially from the coach, who is one person who has always believed in us as a team,” he said.

“To go this far was our objective. Reaching the semi-final is a dream.

“Yes, we wanted to take it home,but we didn’t. But we can be proud of the performance.”