Home Sport ‘Tricky group’ qualifier means three points are vital for Bafana against Zimbabwe

‘Tricky group’ qualifier means three points are vital for Bafana against Zimbabwe

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The group has been tricky for all six opponents, including Rwanda and Benin, that few to no one could have predicted that Lesotho, who are ranked 140th in the world, would top the log.

Thapelo Morena of South Africa leads teammates during the World Cup 2026 qualifiers Bafana Bafana press conference and training at Dobsonville Stadium in Johannesburg on 03 June 2024. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Hugo Broos will not be a happy coach if his Bafana Bafana team fail to beat Zimbabwe in their fourth group stage World Cup qualifier at Free State Stadium on Tuesday night (6pm).

Bafana landed in Bloemfontein from Uyo last night in a confident mood after holding Nigeria to a 1-1 draw at Godswill Akpabio Stadium on Friday night.

The result might have only seen the team bag four points from three matches in Group C, but it was hard-earned, given the challenges they faced ahead of the game.

Lesotho are the surprise Group C leaders with five points after they beat Zimbabwe 2-0 at Orlando Stadium on Friday afternoon.

Benin are second on four points after their 1-0 home win over Rwanda last Thursday, with the Rwandans third and South Africa fourth – both on four – followed by Nigeria on three and Zimbabwe on two.

Bafana, albeit flying out to Uyo via a chartered flight, endured flight delays, long bus trips and a change of accommodation en route to their destination owing to a labour strike in Nigeria.

But having touched down safely and settled without challenges in the City of Roses, they should prepare well and be at their best against the Warriors.

After all, not only will this be their home game, but they are also used to Zimbabwe, who have some of their players plying their trade in the local Premiership.

That’s not all. Since returning to international football, the Warriors have been the whipping boys of the group as they are winless and lost their last qualifier 2-0 to Lesotho on Friday.

“We are playing on Tuesday against Zimbabwe, and we need the three points,” said Broos in the post-match press conference after their draw with the Super Eagles.

“I will not be happy if we don’t win against Zimbabwe. But it’s easier to say that here, behind the microphones, because I know that it will be a tough game again on Tuesday night.”

Broos is right. They won’t have it easy against the Warriors, given how things have panned out in the group since the start of the qualifying campaign.

The group has been tricky for all six opponents, including Rwanda and Benin, that few to no one could have predicted that Lesotho, who are ranked 140th in the world, would top the log.

But such is the evolution of African football, which was shown by the progress of the so-called small teams at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in January, that Broos is not surprised to see Lesotho where they are.

“The group is not made up of top countries, but it is a very tricky group,” Broos acknowledged.

“When you see now after three games and the results, it’s unbelievable. I think this was for me the biggest change at Afcon as well.

“The little countries, like we named them, have progressed a lot. Like we saw at Afcon, the teams that were in the second and third round, we normally don’t expect them there.”

So, despite Bafana being tipped to have the upper hand over their Cosafa neighbours, they can’t leave anything to chance – as Broos has stated that it will not be an easy game. And that’s why they’ll need everyone to be at their best, including talisman Percy Tau, whose international woes continued in Uyo.

The CAF Inter-Club Player of the Year had another below-par performance, for his standards, in the Bafana jersey, missing a sitter that could have given his team the lead late in the second half.

This was Tau’s first game back in the Bafana set-up, having missed the Algeria Fifa Series pilot project in March after being criticised for an average performance at the Afcon.

Broos has rallied behind his No 10, though, saying Tau’s second-half performance was also a result of the challenges they endured ahead of the game.

“Like I said, I am very happy with all the players, including the performance of Percy,” Broos said.

“Okay, the second half, I think physically, it was difficult for him, certainly. But there were a few other players (that struggled as well). But like I explained in the beginning, it was going to be tough for us if we were on the way all day on Wednesday, and must play on Friday against such a good team.

“We did it based on character and mentality. I think that Percy Tau was part of it. He had a good chance to score also, but that is also football.

“There were chances for Nigeria to score also. So, again, the result is correct.”

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