Broos counts on Bafana mentality as he aims for crucial victory over Zim

Lyle Foster during Bafana Bafana's training session at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Monday ahead of Tuesday's 2026 World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe at the same venue.
Lyle Foster during Bafana Bafana's training session at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Monday ahead of Tuesday's 2026 World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe at the same venue.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The mentality Bafana Bafana showed in their group match against Namibia at this year's Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is what coach Hugo Broos expects his side to replicate against Zimbabwe in Tuesday's huge 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier.

There is a long history of Bafana lowering their guard against unheralded opposition in qualifiers. Broos learnt that the hard way in a 2023 Afcon qualifier against Liberia at Orlando Stadium in March last year, when he his team gave a way a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2. So angry was the coach he threatened not address the media afterwards.

Bafana face a Zimbabwe at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein (6pm) who look there for the taking after losing 2-0 on Friday at Orlando Stadium to Lesotho, who are lowly ranked but also the upstarts who have taken the shock lead of group C.

Broos said he wants Bafana to maintain the steely attitude they showed in their 1-1 draw against Nigeria in Uyo on Friday. The 72-year-old Belgian said he would also be delighted to see his team approaching Zimbabwe with the same mentality they displayed in their second game at Afcon, where they beat Namibia 4-0 after they had started the tournament with a 2-0 defeat to Mali.

Zimbabwe, like Namibia, are a neighbour South Africa expect to beat but often come unstuck against. 

“I think it's not difficult [to notice] if you saw the way we played at Afcon and against Algeria [in a 3-3 friendly draw away in March] and now in difficult circumstances against Nigeria,” Broos said on Bafana's improvement in form and toughness of the last year.

“There's now a good mentality in the team. This is not the team any more of Liberia and that was only one year ago.

“It's not enough to have the quality; you also need to have the right mentality. And this is what this team has — the mentality and the quality. But this is no guarantee that you'll win every game.

“I'm not worried about that [mentality] any more. I was worried about that months ago. But there are many things that have changed in this team and I'm very happy.”

Addressing the media after Bafana's training session at Free State Stadium on Monday, Broos recalled it was Zimbabwe he faced in his first match as Bafana coach in September 2021, when Bafana were trying to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

That match in Harare ended 0-0 and Bafana lost two valuable points that could have helped them progress to a play-off round. Their exit came down to amount of goals scored and a dodgy penalty with Ghana.

Broos said Zimbabwe cannot be underestimated simply because of the turmoil they've had in their camp, which has seen them coming into the match with a new coach in Jairos Tapera.

Zimbabwe are at the bottom of group C with two points after their loss to Lesotho. The Warriors started with draws against Rwanda and Nigeria. 

Broos said Bafana need to capitalise on effectively playing seven home matches in these qualifiers, instead of five, as Zimbabwe and Lesotho will play their home games in South Africa due to substandard stadiums in their countries. Tuesday's game is a home match to Bafana. The return game in October is likely to also be played in South Africa.

“The advantage we have is that we have two more home games as we'll play here in away matches against Zimbabwe and Lesotho, and that means we have seven home games. When you win seven home games, you have 21 points. I think with 21 points you're assured to qualify for the World Cup.”

After a gruelling journey to and from Nigeria, Broos was happy to report on Monday that every player was available for Tuesday's game, though there is a slight concern about attacker Percy Tau, who did not finish the game against Nigeria.

“We've had three nights of sleep and there shouldn't be any excuse for Tuesday's match. Everyone is rested and fresh and I expect the team to collect three points. Anything less than that will very disappointing for me.” 

The Bafana coach encouraged Bloemfontein supporters to come out in their numbers to support Bafana in their first match in the province in 14 years. The last time Bafana played in the Free State, they beat France 2-1 at Free State Stadium in their final 2010 Fifa World Cup group match, which was also their last game of the tournament.


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