‘Six hours ago I was 71, now I’m 75’: Emotional Broos hails Williams and Bafana
Hugo Broos sounded moved by the spectacular fight displayed by his team even as he admitted they produced their worst performance of the Africa Cup of Nations beating Cape Verde on penalties in Saturday night's quarterfinal.
Broos, who has seen the culmination of his rebuilding project with the grossly underachieving South Africans culminate in a first Nations Cup semifinal in 24 years, of course made special mention of captain fantastic Ronwen Williams.
The 32-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper and SuperSport United youth product made an almost unheard of four saves from five kicks as South Africa won the shoot-out 2-1 at Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.
Full and extra time ended 0-0 but were dominated by the islanders, who spurned countless chances, with Williams also getting a match-saving stop onto the woodwork as substitute Gilson Benchimol was through one on one in the fifth minute of stoppage time of normal time.
“Let’s say six hours ago I was 71, now I’m 75,” Broos said.
“It was a very stressful game. Certainly with penalties you never know what will happen.
“It [penalties] is a very special situation for the players. Sometimes if you have a little game after training taking penalties and no player misses, but you saw tonight what happened, not only with us, but also the Cape Verde players.
“We were not lucky, because we had a very good keeper tonight. If you can save four penalties that is not luck any more. One [can be luck], but not four.
“And it is not only that — he saved us two minutes before the end too with the player who was alone in front of him.
“So yes, he was man-of-the-match it seems,” Broos said with a chuckle. “You could not choose anybody else because he is really the man of the match.”
The coach admitted his team lacked fluency, often having to scramble in defence as fired-up Cape Verde ran the South Africans ragged.
Bafana's fighting spirit at the Nations Cup, though, ultimately prevailed, with a dose of luck.
The South Africans battled back from an opening 2-0 defeat against Mali in the group stages to qualify as runners-up with a 4-0 win against Namibia and 0-0 draw against Tunisia.
In the last-16, against Africa's top-ranked team, Walid Regragui's crack 2022 World Cup semifnalists Morocco, Bafana also had some fortune go their way with some of the officiating and a late penalty miss by Achraf Hakimi. The South Africans were far more fluent in attack in that game, and structured in defence, than against Cape Verde.
The islanders had beaten Ghana, Mozambique and Mauritania and drawn against Egypt in Ivory Coast.
Many pundits tipped a tougher game for South Africa against Cape Verde — ranked lower than world 66th- and African 12th-ranked Bafana (the islanders are 73rd and 14th), and far less intimidating on paper than Morocco — given the West Africans' excellent form.
And so it proved, Bafana often clawing themselves into keeping the scoreline goalless.
“Our match was not so good. I think we played our worst game of the tournament,” Broos said.
“We played better against Mali, against Nigeria and Tunisia, and also against Morocco.
“Tonight, this was not the team we saw in the previous weeks and I think for some players it was maybe a new experience, and maybe the pressure and the nerves played a role.
“And maybe for Cape Verde it was different — they had nothing to lose. Even though I’m sure they are very sad now. But for us there was more to lose.
“And that, I think played into the hands of their players and we didn’t play as freely [as in our previous games].
“But I have said it — it’s not the way you win, it’s that you win. And tonight we won on penalties and we are very happy.”
Williams became the second Bafana goalkeeper after Andre Arendse in 1996 to keep four successive clean sheets at a Nations Cup finals.
South Africa meet nemesis Nigeria in their semifinal at Stade de la Paix in Bouaké on Wednesday (7pm SA time). Ivory Coast meet Democratic Republic of Congo in Abidjan at 10pm. The final is on Sunday.
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