Bafana playing for first Afcon semi in 24 years, but Cape Verde will be tough
Bafana Bafana expect Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) surprise package Cape Verde to be as tough as Morocco, as South Africa chase their first semifinal qualification in 24 years.
Bafana meet the Islanders in Saturday's quarterfinal at Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast (10pm SA time).
The last time Bafana reached a Nations Cup semifinals was under Trott Moloto in Ghana and Nigeria in 2000. They lost that game, then beat Tunisia on penalties to clinch third place.
They reached the quarterfinals at the next edition in 2002. Bafana then had a long wait for their next appearance in the last eight, which they have done three times in the past 11 years — in 2013 as hosts under Gordon Igesund, 2019 in Egypt under Stuart Baxter and this year under Hugo Broos in Ivory Coast.
After dumping out 2022 World Cup semifinalists and Africa's top-ranked team Morocco with an epic, fighting 2-0 win in San Pedro on Tuesday night — producing arguably the biggest shock of an Afcon characterised by upsets — Bafana should feel confident they have a good chance of beating Cape Verde.
But on form Cape Verde — ranked 73rd in the world and 14th in Africa, who beat Ghana and Mozambique and drew against Egypt to top the group of death — might even present a tougher challenge for Bafana (66th in the world, 12th in Africa) than the Atlas Lions.
South Africa's players have acknowledged the daunting prospect the Blue Sharks will present.
Forward Evidence Makgopa, who opened his Nations Cup account by scoring Bafana's first goal against Morocco, called for Bafana players to keep their feet on the ground.
It will be a crucial aspect. In Egypt four years ago under Baxter Bafana shocked the hosts in front of 80,000 supporters in the second round at Cairo International Stadium but could not keep the momentum going and lost to Nigeria in the quarters.
South Africa have had a habit of producing stunning results against big-name, headline opposition but then battling against sides with smaller reputations.
“I think we just have to keep our heads down and be focused on the next game and forget about the previous one. That is what is going to help us,” Makgopa said.
“I have to improve from the previous game, but at the same time I have to focus on the next one and not dwell too much on what has happened in the previous game and its result.”
Utility player Thapelo Morena echoed Makgopa’s sentiment and put emphasis on proper preparation for Cape Verde.
“I think the most important thing is to focus on the new chapter we have opened. The most important thing is to go out there and grind out a [positive] result,” Morena said. “We need to focus on the new game, try to get some more rest. We need to train well and have a good recovery.”
Midfielder Thabang Monare believes the secret to the islanders' success is a Trojan work ethic that their opponents in Ivory Coast have failed to match.
“Cape Verde are a very tough team and I think the more we progress, the tougher it’s going to get,” Monare said. “We’ve watched their games, and they are a team willing to work hard. Playing against that kind of a team, you need to be on your A game.
“They are really going to work hard, and we have to match that and beat that.”
Bafana will also have to find a way to counter the physicality and aggression that has been a crucial aspect of the Sharks' bite at the Afcon.
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