South African national team coach Hugo Broos is upbeat about Bafana Bafana’s prospects as their preparations for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afrcon) began in earnest yesterday.
The 23-man squad is in camp in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, for the team tune-up ahead of the start of the continental showpiece on January 13.
Bafana begin their Afcon campaign in Group E against Mali on January 16, in the city of Kirogho.
“I’m confident with my team, the upbeat spirit among them and the big smiles presented on arrival in camp is encouraging,” said Broos before the squad got down to the business of training at the University of Stellenbosch.
“If this is anything to go by, it is the start of what is going to be a successful campaign. But we have hard work ahead of us, there is no doubt about that,” added the Belgian veteran.
Last month, Broos trimmed his 50-man preliminary squad to 23 players, including Sibongiseni Mthethwa, Thapelo Xoki and Elias Mokwana as standby players.
The surprising and exciting inclusions to the final squad are Polokwane City attacker Oswin Appollis and Jayden Adams of Stellenbosch. Some of the big names that were dropped were MLS duo Njabulo Blom and Bongokuhle Hlongwane
Broos’ most trusted soldiers in strikers Lebo Mothiba and Lyle Foster had to be omitted from the squad due to injury and mental health-related issues, respectively.
Reminiscing about his Afcon triumph with Cameroon in 2017, Broos expressed how special winning the competition was and would want to experience that winning feeling again with Bafana. “For me, winning the Afcon is still a special experience,” Broos told Safa media.
“If you ask me if I want to do it again [win the Afcon], I will surely say yes… But more than anything, I am looking forward to all the games and the atmosphere of the entire tournament.”
Former Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane said Broos and his troops have what it takes to make it out of the group stages but it will be difficult. “Making it out of the group stages will be difficult. We have teams that are going to create a lot of problems for us,” Mosimane recently told Sunday World.
“But South Africa always rises to the occasion. Remember they beat Egypt [in the 2019 Afcon] so they can make it out of the group stages.”
Unlike Mosimane and many other staunch Bafana supporters, Ivory Coast legend Yaya Toure confidently came out and outlined South Africa as one of the favourites. “If I had to pick teams [that] are favourites, I’d say Senegal, Morocco, Guinea-Bissau and South Africa. Their record in the qualifiers was impressive,” he told Canal+.
The squad will depart for Ivory Coast on Thursday and should be settled at their base camp in Korhogo by Friday.
Bafana will play the first round in Group E, which includes Mali, Namibia and Tunisia. On paper, it is a fair draw for SA even though Tunisia and Mali have enjoyed better progress in international football in most recent years. Now at No 12 on the continent, Bafana are edging closer to the coveted top 10. Overall, the moment has never been so ripe for Bafana to prove their case as a force to be reckoned with.
Bafana Bafana Squad
Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (Mamelodi Sundowns), Veli Mothwa (AmaZulu), Ricardo Goss (SuperSport)
Defenders: Sydney Mobbie (Sekhukhune), Nkosinathi Sibisi (Orlando Pirates), Siyanda Xulu (SuperSport United) Grant Kekana, Terrence Mashego, Aubrey Modiba, and Mothobi Mvala and Khuliso Mudau (all Mamelodi Sundowns).
Midfielders: Sphephelo Sithole (CD Tondela, Portugal), Jayden Adams (Stellenbosch FC), Thabang Monare (Orlando Pirates), Thapelo Maseko, Thapelo Morena and Teboho Mokoena (all Mamelodi Sundowns)
Forwards: Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Oswin Appollis (Polokwane City), Mihlali Mayambela, (Aris Limassol, Cyprus), Percy Tau (Al Ahly, Egypt), Zakhele Lepasa and Evidence Makgopa (Orlando Pirates)
Standby players: Sibongiseni Mthethwa (Kaizer Chiefs), Elias Mokwana (Sekhukhune United) and Tapelo Xoki (Orlando Pirates)