‘We’ll bounce back stronger and hungrier in the next Afcon’

Bafana Bafana’s dream of winning the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is not doomed, as they are preparing for the continental tournament to be staged in Morocco in 2025, according to Sphephelo Sithole, the national team’s midfielder.

Sithole was commenting after Bafana’s devastating 4-2 loss to longtime rivals Nigeria on penalties during their semi-final match on Wednesday night.

Teboho Mokoena’s last-minute penalty kick equaliser for Bafana against the Super Eagles of Nigeria ended the match at one goal each in regulation time.

Penalty shootout

The match was settled in a penalty shootout following 120 minutes of intense running because even extra-time could not break the tie.

The Bafana goalkeeper, who saved four penalties against Cape Verde, was sadly unable to duplicate his heroics.

As he led the midfield alongside Teboho Mokoena, Sithole, also fondly known as Yaya, was one of the standout players for Bafana during the Afcon.

According to Sithole, the team showed they had what it took to win the tournament and that they would return stronger in Morocco.

“We have grown hungrier and have a deeper desire to want to bounce back in the next Afcon in Morocco next year and kill it,” Sithole told Safa media.

“I think we have shown that we are capable of beating anyone in this tournament. So, we will come back with a stronger mentality that will maybe help us win the next Afcon.”

Winning back supporters’ affection

The tenacious midfielder, aged 24, expressed his delight at having helped Bafana win back supporters’ affection and backing for the national team.

“A lot of people did not give us a chance going into the tournament, but from what we achieved [reaching the semi-finals], I think we brought back the love of football in the country.

“We did well as a team, and I still think we deserved more from the competition, especially on Wednesday against Nigeria.

“From what we have shown, we just need to build from that, and hopefully in the future we will give the country what they deserve.”

South Africa will compete for the bronze medal against DR Congo in the third- or fourth-place match on Saturday night at the Stade Félix in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

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