Makgopa defends from the front, creates chances – Sibusiso Zuma

Bafana Bafana striker Evidence Makgopa offers the national team more than goal scoring, observes former South African international Sibusiso Zuma. 

Makgopa has been showered with praise after an impressive performance against Morocco during their last-16 clash in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old scored the opening goal which led to Bafana thumping the Atlas Lions 2-0.

However, many South Africans questioned Makgopa’s selection by coach Hugo Broos prior to the Afcon. Zuma said he agrees with Broos’ point about having the Orlando Pirates forward in the team. 

“People who don’t understand football are very quick to judge. He (Makgopa) has been doing a lot of work in terms of defending from the front,” Zuma told Sunday World on Wednesday.

“He is also very hard and energetic in that level of defending, up to 70% to 80% of the match and still be able to attack. That is very hard because he is playing by himself [as a striker].

“And the fact that he is starting to score shows that he can see the game clearer now and can see those pockets [of space] where he can move in and make sure that we get chances.”

Give the man a chance 

The FC Copenhagen legend pleaded with South Africans to watch Makgopa’s play carefully and give him support.

“I was not really worried about him not scoring because he has been doing a lot of defensive work and creating spaces for other players like [Themba] Zwane and Percy Tau,” Zuma added.

The retired striker donned the Bafana jersey 67 times and played alongside fine strikers  like Benni McCarthy, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Katlego Mphela in the national team.

“Remember, at the beginning of these tournaments, you must make sure that you defend well and then the goals will come.

“And then when you go to the knockout stages, this is where the game is open because you must win your games and don’t want to go to penalties. [That’s when]everyone pushes, and as a striker, you try getting in those spaces.

“If you look at guys like [Didier] Drogba and [Samuel] Eto’o, in the history of these tournaments, they don’t start scoring in the beginning; they start [scoring] late. So, people must chill, give him time, and see what he can do.”

Makgopa will be back in action as Bafana meet a tricky Cape Verde in the quarterfinals on Saturday night.

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