Bafana Bafana’s ‘mindset right’ ahead of do-or-die Namibia clash

Bafana Bafana’s Sphephelo Sithole is challenged by Yves Bissouma of Mali during their Africa Cup of Nations match. Picture: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana’s Sphephelo Sithole is challenged by Yves Bissouma of Mali during their Africa Cup of Nations match. Picture: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix

Published Jan 19, 2024


Bafana Bafana midfielder Sphephelo Sithole has reassured the nation that he and his teammates remain focused despite the disappointment of the opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

Sithole played the full 90 minutes as the South African national team succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against Mali in Korhogo, Ivory Coast on Tuesday night.

The 24-year-old, also known as “Yaya“, spoke to the SA Football Association media department, alongside midfield partner Teboho Mokoena, having had an opportunity to reflect on and assess Bafana’s shortfalls of a few nights ago against Mali.

The duo dissected the reasons behind their weird slump, after having been impressive in the opening 45 minutes of their match at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium.

Sithole – who is one of two European-based players in the 23-man squad, with his club, CD Tondela, campaigning in Portugal’s second division – opened up on the mood and general feel of the Bafana camp.

“I think the gents have been positive after the loss that we had, so I think our mindset is on the right track because we are fully focused on the coming game (against Namibia on Sunday),” said Sithole.

Bafana had 55% of the ball possession in the Mali match, and six shots on target to Mali’s seven, but forced the opposition goalkeeper into more saves than those SA captain Ronwen Williams had to make.

And even with that much authority in the encounter, Bafana bizarrely ended up on the losing side – and Sithole gave his take on that night in Korhogo.

“Our first game was more difficult because the opponents knew what our threat was. But in the first half, we dominated the game.

“Coming into the second half, the changes they made actually made their team look better.

“They were also more aggressive than us, and that helped them beat us,” he explained.

Bafana next play a Namibia side that made history by snatching their first Afcon win with a 1-0 triumph over Tunisia in their opening match on Tuesday, and now SA have an opportunity to go level with them on points in the group.

Despite the precarious position Bafana find themselves in, Mokoena refused to regard their clash with the Brave Warriors on Sunday (10pm kickoff, SA time) as a must-win situation – but said that they would approach the match looking to avoid another defeat.

“It’s not really a must-win, but we must get a positive result against Namibia.

“Of course, I won’t be happy (if we don’t win), but we definitely should not lose,” he said.

Sithole echoed the sentiments of Mokoena as he spoke of the satisfaction a victory against Namibia would bring to the SA squad.

Mokoena will come up against familiar faces when Bafana meet the Brave Warriors in Korhogo, with his Mamelodi Sundowns teammate Peter Shalulile the biggest name in Namibia’s side.

The 10 Brazilians representing Bafana will have a huge role to play in hatching a plan to stop Shalulile, especially defender Mothobi Mvala and goalkeeper Williams, who will try to prevent him from finding the back of the net.

Bafana’s chances of making the knockout stages are also boosted by the four spots for best third-placed teams available in the round of 16, and a win against Namibia might almost guarantee that before a tricky clash against Tunisia next Wednesday.