Hugo Broos fearless as Bafana plot Nigeria’s downfall at Africa Cup of Nations

South Africa's Belgian head coach Hugo Broos gives a press conference at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on January 23, 2024 on the eve of the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations

Bafana already have a score to settle with Nigeria, having lost in their last three meetings at the Africa Cup of Nations. Seen here: Bafana coach Hugo Broos. Picture: Fadel Senna/AFP

Published Feb 7, 2024


Hugo Broos and Bafana Bafana want to return to the pinnacle of continental football, and they’ll not allow Nigeria to stop them in their pursuit.

The Broos-coached Bafana team will face the Super Eagles in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final in Bouake, Ivory Coast, on Wednesday (7pm kick-off). And given the rivalry between the two nations on and off the field, this clash is expected to be one for the record books, though it will be the result that will do the talking.

Bafana already have a score to settle with Nigeria, having lost in their last three meetings at the Cup of Nations – in the semi-finals in 2000, the group stage in 2004 and the quarter-finals in 2019. The result back in 2000, especially, still hurts for South Africans.

So, with Wednesday a perfect platform to avenge that 2-0 defeat, Bafana are not willing to leave any stone unturned in their quest to reach the Afcon final for the first time in 26 years.

Nigeria still clear favourites

That will be easier said than done, though. The Super Eagles are favourites for the encounter based on history, while they’ve also been mightily impressive during this tournament – more so than Bafana.

Broos, however, understands that history and form counts for nothing in knockout matches.

“We don’t fear them but we know that they have good players,” Broos said on Tuesday. “We’ll try to stop them and ensure that they are not very dangerous.

“Their defence is very good but again, those were things that were said about Morocco, and we won. Those are statistics and we must take care of them. But we don’t fear the opponent.”

Broos and his troops are not easily shaken. That they’ve reached this stage of the tournament is no fluke. They had to dig deep as a unit.

Broos had always known what he needed to get out of a tough situation, though, after shrugging off criticism in 2017 to win his maiden Afcon crown with Cameroon. Having tasted the sweetness that comes with that victory, he wants to repeat it with Bafana and become the second coach, after Herve Renard, to win the trophy with two different nations.

“I can say that I am proud of myself, having achieved what I did with two different teams,” Broos said. “I am now in the semi-final, and I have won Afcon already. This is something special for me certainly. But when you are in that phase of the tournament, you hope to win it as well.

“Should I succeed, that would be fantastic for my CV. But it’s not only about the coach but the team as well. You need the team; you can’t do it without the team.”

Broos backs Bafana troops

He wouldn’t have made it this far if it wasn’t for his players such as captain Ronwen Williams, who saved four penalty kicks in the 2-1 penalty shootout win over Cape Verde over the weekend. The team has also evolved during the tournament.

Broos is proud of his players’ exploits so far, given all the criticism that engulfed them since the start of their tenure together.

“I have always had confidence in the players, even when in South Africa there were question marks around them,” Broos explained.

“I think it’s important that you can go and work for a long time with the players and find something in the team. When the players are confident, and the results are following, you are coming together like a team. We did that at this Afcon also.”