The Head Coach of South Africa, Hugo Broos, has urged his team to “dream of the final” following their unexpected triumph against 2023 Africa Cup of Nations favourites, Morocco, in the round of 16.
Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena secured a 2-0 victory over the 2022 World Cup semi-finalists on Tuesday, marking the latest upset in the tournament held in Ivory Coast.
Bafana Bafana is now set to face Cape Verde in the quarter-finals on Saturday (20:00 GMT) after overcoming a challenging start with a 2-0 defeat by Mali. The team rebounded, securing qualification from a group that saw 2004 champions Tunisia eliminated.
Broos emphasised the growth within a tournament, stating, “The most important thing is that you can grow in a tournament when you become better and better.”
Having lifted the Afcon trophy with Cameroon in 2017, the experienced Belgian coach expressed confidence, saying, “If you can win that, then the confidence is so big that we dream now of the final.”
South Africa, having missed the 2021 finals, showcased resilience by defeating neighbour Namibia 4-0 in the group stage. A goalless draw with Tunisia secured their progression at the expense of the North Africans.
Facing a formidable opponent in Morocco, ranked 13th in the world, South Africa’s forward Percy Tau acknowledged the difficulty of the game, stating, “It does not take away how difficult this tournament is. And that the next game is still going to be also difficult.”
Makgopa’s goal just after the break set the tone for South Africa’s victory, while Mokoena’s stunning free-kick sealed the win after Morocco’s missed penalty and Sofyan Amrabat’s late sending-off.
Morocco’s coach, Walid Regragui, maintained resilience, stating, “It is not the end of the world. We will come back stronger.”
The tournament has witnessed surprises, with traditional powerhouses Egypt, Cameroon, and Ghana, along with Senegal, all exiting early. The underdog narrative prevails, showcasing the growth of the game on the continent, highlighted by African-based players making a significant impact.
Broos acknowledged the shift in South Africa’s playing style, stating, “We are not playing anymore like South Africans. The style is different now. We play a little bit more, or try to play a little bit more, like Europeans. And that helps us a lot.”