Home Sport ‘Madiba Magic’ was in Algiers thanks to Bafana Bafana

‘Madiba Magic’ was in Algiers thanks to Bafana Bafana

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After Tuesday night’s clash against the two-time Afcon winners Algeria, there was wide-scale praise for Broos and his players.

Elias Sepho Mokwana of South Africa celebrates his goal with teammates during the FIFA Series Algeria Edition 2024 match against Algeria held at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers, Algeria on 26 March 2024. Picture: Djaffar Ladjal, BackpagePix

Herman Gibbs

After Bafana Bafana’s stalemate against lowly Andorra a few days ago, coach Hugo Broos was roundly criticised by South African fans, even though the national team was ill-prepared for the match.

However, after Tuesday night’s clash against the two-time Afcon winners Algeria, there was wide-scale praise for Broos and his players.

The air of scepticism after the Andorra clash has made way for a frisson of optimism in the ranks of Mzansi supporters.

It is very likely that when next Bafana have a home match, there will be more spectators than the proverbial one man and his dog.

Despite the advantage of home-ground support in a packed ground in Algiers – incidentally named the Nelson Mandela Stadium – Algeria were forced to settle for a draw in a 3-3 thriller.

Unlike the South African squad, which was made up mostly of locally-based players, most of Algeria’s squad ply their trade in England, Spain, France and Italy.

The match stats show that South Africa bossed the possession stakes to the tune of 55% – something Bafana have never previously enjoyed against Algeria’s ‘Desert Foxes’.

The post-match comments suggest that even Broos was surprised at how his charges rose to the occasion, and he duly declared that Bafana can defeat any team in Africa.

Of course, South Africa have already proved that much after defeating Africa’s top-ranked Morocco (ranked No 12 in the world) 2-0 at the Afcon in February.

Broos and his players can now look forward with confidence to their two Group C 2026 World Cup qualifiers in June.

Bafana will travel to Nigeria for a match on June 3, and a week later will host Zimbabwe in Johannesburg. Another confidence booster would be the news that both Nigeria and Zimbabwe suffered defeats on Tuesday.

While the players rejoin their club teams, Broos will start his preparations for the two June matches.

The first order of business will be to tie down Burnley striker Lyle Foster for future matches. Foster would have noted the progress made by Bafana Bafana, and by this time he will start thinking about playing at the 2026 World Cup.

Hence, Broos should not have problems convincing the Burnley striker to return to national duty.

The French-based striker Lebo Mothiba looks like the ideal partner for Foster in what will be a strong combination up front. He was injured for the Afcon, but he has maintained regular contact with the players – and that suggests he is keen to play for Bafana, although it remains to be seen whether he will be fit by June.

Broos will have a few selection headaches, especially after several players used their chances well during the two friendlies in Algeria. The star of the show was Themba Zwane, the 34-year-old midfielder who scored a brace against Algeria.

At this stage, Zwane selects himself. He produced a masterful performance, and has been the fulcrum around which the team revolves.

The find of the Algerian tour was Elias Mokwana, who was one of the Bafana fringe players who did enough to cement his place in future national squads.

He scored in the first match against Andorra and contributed to the third goal for Bafana against Algeria, with his shot deflecting off Iqraam Rayners to beat the goalkeeper. He was also impressive with his runs at opposition defences.

Stellenbosch FC star Rayners caught the eye as well with a busy display at the main striker against Algeria.

Mihlali Mayambela also served notice that has to be part of future selections. He brings a bit of an X-factor, and has shown a fine understanding with players around him, although he needs to guard against lapses in concentration.

All in all, it was a fine advertisement for South African football after a surprisingly good bronze-medal finish at the recent Afcon.

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