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‘We have players who can make a difference’: Broos praises Bafana stars Mokoena and Makgopa

Evidence Makgopa celebrates scoring Bafana Bafana's first goal with teammates in their Africa Cup of Nations last-16 win against Morocco at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, on Tuesday night.
Evidence Makgopa celebrates scoring Bafana Bafana's first goal with teammates in their Africa Cup of Nations last-16 win against Morocco at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, on Tuesday night.
Image: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos was full of praise for two star performers in his team’s epic 2-0 shock win against Morocco in the Africa Cup of Nations last 16 on Tuesday night, goal scorers Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena.

He said Themba Zwane winning two man-of-the-match awards in Ivory Coast and Mokoena adding another against Morocco shows Bafana are playing as a team. Mokoena and Makgopa’s individual contributions also show South Africa “have players who can make a difference”, Broos said.

Mokoena — the product of Harmony Academy in the Free State and SuperSport United’s development, and now Mamelodi Sundowns star — put in a world-class midfield display that has become characteristic of his performances for club and country.

A presence across the field winning challenges next to the added muscle of excellent midfield partner Sphephelo Sithole, running hard and making passes, Mokoena’s night was capped with the 95th-minute free-kick that could be earmarked for goal of the tournament.

Makgopa was a thorn with his hard running and positioning off the ball, producing the all-important, excellently taken opener in the 57th.

South Africans love to pick a striker to vent at around Nations Cup time, from Phil “Chippa” Masinga in 1996 to Lebo Mothiba in 2019. Makgopa was the latest to be at the end of their derision on social media in this tournament.

Broos acknowledged another excellent display by Mokoena but seemed specially pleased at how Orlando Pirates star Makgopa, originally drafted into the national team by the Belgian coach in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, answered his critics.

“I think I said at the beginning of Afcon that it’s very important you can grow in the tournament, and I think South Africa have grown in this tournament,” Broos said when asked about Mokoena’s display at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, Ivory Coast.

“We lost against Mali [2-0], then we beat Namibia [4-0], had a difficult game against Tunisia [0-0] and today against Morocco. We have got better with every match.

“And this is very important. I think I gave you the example of the Germans before. They were always not very good at the start and then when a World Cup was continuing it became easier for them.

“We have players. Themba Zwane was man-of-the-match twice and tonight it was Teboho. That means we are playing well as a team but also we have some players who can make a difference.

“Like tonight, fantastic free-kick from Teboho and nice work from Makgopa. And those who doubted him, Makgopa — I always believed in Makgopa.

“When you work with this guy, he will become a very good striker — believe me.”

Some younger players introduced as part of Broos’s rebuilding project after his appointment in 2021, as Bafana ran Ghana extremely close (goals scored and a highly disputed penalty were the deciding factors) in the 2022 World Cup qualifying group stage, have fallen away.

However, a player like Makgopa, who has sometimes battled for club game time, especially after his move from Baroka FC to Pirates, has earned 15 caps and continues to be backed by Broos — and that investment is paying off.

Bafana meet an impressive Cape Verde in Saturday’s quarterfinal at Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro (10pm SA time).


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