COMMENT: I’m eating humble pie after one of Bafana’s greatest Afcon wins

Percy Tau of South Africa celebrates victory during 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Morocco and South Africa at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast

I’ll be the first to admit that I did not expect Bafana Bafana to reach this deep into the Africa Cup of Nations, writes Morgan Bolton. Seen here: Percy Tau of South Africa celebrates after his side’s last 16 Africa Cup of Nations victory over Morocco. Picture: Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix

Published Feb 1, 2024


I’ll be the first to admit that I did not expect Bafana Bafana to reach this deep into this edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.

Indeed, I did not expect them to escape their group.

A round of 16 exit, in my estimation, would have been a job well done, an objective achieved, a goal set and reached, and a springboard to continue to vault forward from. It would have been more than enough.

I never expected them to reach the quarter-final.

Morocco can also have a piece of that pie

I greedily eat the humble pie that Bafana have fed me, and for that matter, served Morocco on Tuesday night in San-Pedro in the south-west of the country.

I can attest that at least it is not sour or bitter pie, but rather a pleasant concoction of pride and satisfaction.

Beating Morocco is no easy feat.

Seeing that everything in football is related to money, and skills and talents are directly equated to how much you are worth, Bafana should have come nowhere close to beating the Atlas Lions – who before their ignominious last-16 exit were also ranked the best African team in the world, in 13th place.

South Africa, by contrast, are 66th – a ranking that will surely improve after the most recent 2-0 defeat of the north Africans.

But I digress.

When it comes to market value, Morocco are priced at an impressive R7.1 billion. Bafana, meanwhile, are way below that with a price tag of R468 million.

To put it into perspective, Achraf Hakimi – who plays for PSG in the French Ligue 1 and is considered the most valuable player in the Moroccan side – had his latest transfer cost around R1.3bn.

Pumping the money into football

The Royal Moroccan Football Federation has also pumped huge amounts of cash into the game, splurging on a state-of-the-art academy in 2009 for R264m.

The nation has pushed hard to host major footballing events as well, including the Fifa World Cup, which they will now co-host in 2030 along with Spain and Portugal.

Their most recent success at that showpiece event, in which they reached the 2022 semi-finals – the first African nation to do so – pointed to an easy run against Bafana, then Cape Verde, with a tricky semi-final against either Nigeria or Angola, and then ultimately a berth in the title decider.

But, by the end of the clash at the Stade Laurent Pokou, Bafana coach Hugo Broos had inspired a tactical masterclass that should be considered one of the finest performances by a South African side – not only in football – but of any code.

Morocco had their chances – 13 of them to South Africa’s five – but as the encounter came to a close, they had missed a penalty, while their talisman Sofyan Amrabat received his marching orders.

Bafana had reduced the mighty Morocco to thoughts and prayers as the clock wound down, swatting aside their opponents’ advantages, their much more fancied opposition calling on divine intervention to save them from the reality of the moment.

Afcon ‘96 the ultimate

Yes, Bafana winning the Afcon in 1996 will forever be the defining moment of our nation’s football, while Benni McCarthy scoring SA’s first goal in a Fifa World Cup in 1998 is also up there somewhere.

The even more succulent first World Cup victory four years later against Slovenia can also be noted, and beating France in 2010 at the seminal event on home soil will always be a bittersweet moment.

But this achievement surely stands as among the most significant victories and one of the greatest of upsets.

It was that good.


IOL Sport

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