The countdown to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is on as Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos and his players prepare to fly the South African flag high when they jet off to the Ivory Coast on Thursday.
Host nation Ivory Coast will set the tone of the much-anticipated continental showpiece when they lock horns with Guinea-Bissau on Saturday.
Bafana will square up against Mali in their Group E opener at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on Tuesday night. Kick-off is at 10pm.
The hopes of many staunch South African football supporters will be heavily reliant on Bafana to represent the nation with pride and deliver a solid performance at the biggest stage on the continent.
Emulating the 1996 golden generation will once again be undoubtedly a difficult feat to achieve, however, with the many subtle advantages the current Bafana group have, they are capable to cause an upset and deliver something special at this year’s Afcon edition.
Host of advantages
One of the advantages is that almost half of the squad is made up of Mamelodi Sundowns players – a team that has been agonisingly dominant in local football for over a decade.
The likes of Ronwen Williams, Khuliso Mudau, Aubrey Modiba, Teboho Mokoena and Themba Zwane, who is at the peak of his career, will without a doubt be key on how the rest of the team fares throughout the tournament.
The second advantage is that Bafana have a coach that knows what it takes to go all the way to lift the Afcon trophy, having won the prestigious tournament with Cameroon in 2017.
The 71-year-old Belgian tactician is among three of the 24 coaches in the competition that have tasted Afcon success.
The others are Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi who won it in 2019 and Senegal coach Aliou Cisse, who has a huge task to make sure that his charges defend the crown they won in 2021.
Despite Broos having a decent record as Bafana coach, he is yet to face his biggest test at the hot seat and can be fairly judged on his performance at the biggest stage with the entire world watching.