Bafana Bafana Defence, Midfield and Attack Ratings After Unfortunate AFCON 2023 Defeat to Mali

Bafana Bafana Defence, Midfield and Attack Ratings After Unfortunate AFCON 2023 Defeat to Mali

Jarryd Westerdale
updated at January 17, 2024 at 10:02 AM
In this article:
Percy Tau logo
P. Tau
El Ahly Cairo logoFSouth Africa logo
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
Lassine Sinayoko logo
L. Sinayoko
AJ Auxerre logoFMali logo
  • Bafana Bafana went down 2-0 to Mali in their opening AFCON 2023 Group E match
  • South Africa were impressive for 45 minutes but were outplayed after the break
  • Hugo Broos' players showed glimpses of potential that will need to be improved upon

The morning after can bring back painful recollections.

Bafana Bafana's 2-0 defeat to Mali is not a fatal blow to their chances but the result in the other match has heaped significant pressure on the remaining two group games.

South Africa will need to shrug off their disappointment and show some mental strength as they prepare for what was always going to be a decisive encounter with Namibia.

South Africa, Bafana Bafana, Mali, AFCON 2023, 2-0, Percy Tau.
Bafana Bafana were defeated 2-0 by Mali in their AFCON 2023 Group E encounter in Korhogo. Photos: MB Media.
Source: Getty Images

Sports Brief analyses the individual performances of the starting XI from a game that perfectly fitted the cliche of 'a game of two halves.

Bafana Bafana ratings vs Mali

A solid defence that wilted too easily - 5/10

Ronwen Williams made some routine saves early in the game and in an ideal world, he could have tipped the deciding free-kick over the bar. However, it would be harsh to blame him for the goals.

As a unit, they tried to play confidently with the ball at their feet but were outsmarted in the second half as Mali forced Bafana into narrower passing channels.

Khuliso Mudau was often caught too high up the pitch and on the other flank, Aubrey Modiba linked up well with Thapelo Maseko but that avenue was eventually blocked by Mali.

In the heart of the defence, Mothobi Mvala and Siyanda Xulu seemed to scramble too often. Lassine Sinayoko gave them both the runaround and were saved by Williams just before halftime when they almost collided.

Mvala had to bring Sinayoko down for the free kick that led to the goal and despite having several yards on Sinayoko in the build-up to the second goal, Xulu was still beaten on the outside as the Malian ended the contest.

Midfield maestros revert to mayhem - 6.5/10

Fluid and penetrating, South Africa's midfield was exciting to watch for much of the first half. They won the ball back sharply and used it with intelligence to create the chances that are now looked back on with agony.

Sphephelo Sithole always made himself available in the spaces and Teboho Mokoena complimented him will efficient use of possession. The Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder looked to have confidently made himself available to take the penalty but seemed to be overruled by Percy Tau.

Themba Zwane made for a positive outlet when dropping deeper but was seldom on the same wavelength as his frontman. He was replaced by Mihlali Mayambela with 15 minutes to go but by then Mali had already won the mental tug-of-war.

Expectedly blunt up front - 4/10

Evidence Makgopa certainly put in effort but he lacked the sharpness to turn half chances into goalscoring opportunities. He was replaced by Zakhele Lepasa shortly after the goal but his 20 minutes resembled the image on his domestic club jersey.

Thapelo Maseko looked set for an evening that would go in the scrapbook but lost his rhythm as the game wore on. Provided the best crosses that could have earned goals, but some will say he should have come off far earlier than the 87th minute.

Sporting greats have often spoken of 'quicksand'. This is the act of struggling so hard to fix an error that one sinks deeper and deeper. This was Tau's evening in a nutshell. South Africa will pray that the real Tau returns against Namibia.

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Hugo Broos explains Mali defeat

Sports Brief recently reported on Hugo Broos explaining the factors that led to South Africa's 2-0 AFCON defeat.

The Belgian was full of praise for his team despite their failure to build on a promising start in the first half.

Bafana Bafana will hope to bounce back when they tackle Namibia in their next Group E game on Sunday.

Jarryd Westerdale photo
Jarryd Westerdale
Jarryd Westerdale (based in Johannesburg) joined Sports Brief after four years in the community journalism sphere. He is a two-time Alet Roux Award winner and was a finalist in multiple categories at the Forum of Community Journalism Excellence Awards.
Hugo Broos