Soccer Editors Choice

Bafana take big step towards World Cup with win against Zim in Bloem

Iqraam Rayners (No 5) celebrates his goal for Bafana Bafana in their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying win against Zimbabwe at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night.
Iqraam Rayners (No 5) celebrates his goal for Bafana Bafana in their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying win against Zimbabwe at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Substitute Thapelo Morena scored a brace to keep Bafana Bafana’s 2026 Fifa World Cup right on track with a convincing 3-1 win against Zimbabwe at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night.

Bafana are nestled in second place in group C with seven points, behind leaders Rwanda only on goal difference and ahead of third-placed Benin. Group heavyweights Nigeria have had a disastrous start, with three draws and a defeat, to have only three points. 

A brilliant start by Bafana, with Iqraam Rayners opening the scoring in front of a packed stadium in the first minute, was cancelled out a minute later by Tawanda Chirewa’s equaliser.

Bafana and the big crowd’s early celebrations at Rayners’ opener were cut short as midfielders Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole became spectators when Chirewa walked with the ball past them before planting the equaliser outside the reach of a diving Ronwen Williams.

What followed was frustration for Bafana as they missed chance after chance — though Zimbabwe also managed a good few of their own — to go to the break with the scores level. 

Rayners, Aubrey Modiba, Oswin Appollis and Themba Zwane all had good chances to restore Bafana’s lead before halftime but a combination of lack of composure and astute goalkeeping by Geoffrey Chitsumba denied them.

A fired-up Zimbabwe matched Bafana to 1-1 by the break, but Hugo Broos’ South Africans took control of the second half and were rewarded by Morena’s twin strikes (55th and 76th).

Broos brought on Morena for Elias Mokwana at the restart. It took the Mamelodi Sundowns winger — playing at wing on Tuesday night — 10 minutes to change the scoreline, benefiting from Appollis’ cross that was fumbled by Chitsumba to give Morena an easy tap-in, much to the jubilation of the home crowd.

Morena completed his brace in the 74th minute when the speedster sprinted down the middle and latched onto a pass upfield, rounded Chitsumba and finished to give Bafana a deserved two-goal cushion.

Broos had said anything less than a win would have been a huge setback for Bafana as he was aiming for four points from the two matches against Nigeria on Friday, where Bafana earned another impressive result with a 1-1 draw thanks to Themba Zwane’s delightful goal, and their neighbours.

Nigeria put their chances of qualifying in serious danger when they lost 2-1 to Benin on Monday, which followed three successive draws, two of those at home (against Bafana and, disastrously, in their opener against Lesotho).

Lesotho dropped to fourth place thanks to their 1-0 defeat to Rwanda at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday night.

With six matches to go before the end of this qualifying campaign, Broos will be satisfied with what Bafana have earned, especially given his team only have one match against Benin to still to play away from home, as both Zimbabwe and Lesotho are hosting their games in South Africa because their home grounds were not approved by the Confederation of African Football.

The win was a good one for Bafana, who have improved under Broos in recent months. South Africa won the bronze medal at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations after being given no chance before the tournament as they had gone 24 years struggling to make an impact at the continental showpiece.

Bafana’s win over Zimbabwe came on the anniversary of their opening match of the 2010 World Cup against Mexico at FNB Stadium on June 11 2010, when Siphiwe Tshabalala scored a spectacular goal that is still raved about worldwide in a 1-1 draw.

That the crowd in Bloemfontein packed Free State Stadium and vociferously supported Bafana was largely due to their performances in recent months. It was also largely down to it having been 14 years since the national team last played at this venue when they beat France 2-0 in their final 2010 World Cup group game, which was also their last game of the tournament. 

Bafana Bafana supporters in Bloemfontein came out in their numbers to show the nation team support in their World Cup qualifier match against Zimbabwe. #SouthAfrica #News


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