AFCON 2023: Journalist Explains 'Secret' to South Africa’s Success Despite Early Setbacks

AFCON 2023: Journalist Explains 'Secret' to South Africa’s Success Despite Early Setbacks

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
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South Africa
South Africa
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R. Williams
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  • South Africa is among the remaining four vying for a spot in the AFCON final
  • Bafana Bafana defeated Cape Verde in a penalty shootout to make it through
  • The one-time African champions will face Nigeria's Super Eagles in the semis

South Africa secured a spot in the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations by defeating Cape Verde in a post-match penalty shootout at the Charles Konan Banny Stadium in Yamoussoukro.

Bafana Bafana, champions of Africa in the 1996 home edition, advanced to the last four for the first time in 24 years, with much credit going to the exceptional goalkeeping skills of Ronwen Williams.

South Africa, Ronwen Williams, Mamelodi Sundowns, AFCON, semifinal
South Africa reached the last four of the AFCON for the first time since 2000 with their win over Cape Verde. Photo credit: @SAFA_net.
Source: Twitter

The Mamelodi Sundowns shot-stopper set a competition record by saving four penalties, per the BBC, keeping the hopes of Hugo Broos' team claiming a second AFCON crown alive.

While South Africa may not have displayed flashy, champagne-style football during the continental tournament, their cohesion and tenacity to fight until the end have been noteworthy.

However, standing in their path to the final is Nigeria, now considered the new favourites to win the competition after the unexpected eliminations of powerhouses Morocco, Senegal, and Egypt, as cited by GOAL.

In analysing Bafana Bafana's performance in the 34th edition of the AFCON, senior journalist at the SABC, Mazola Molefe, highlighted key aspects that have defined the South Africans' journey to the semi-finals.

Speaking to Sports Brief, Molefe remarked:

"What I believe to be the secret behind Bafana Bafana’s performance is, like a lot of teams who have gone through, like Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and DR Congo, is unity.
"And that’s what you see in the four sides that are remaining [in the tournament]. I don’t think it's any different from Bafana Bafana."

Despite criticism of Hugo Broos' team selection, Molefe emphasised the focus was not on gathering star players but on assembling individuals who work well together.

"There are detractors who have questioned Broos about his selection. But as one coach disclosed to me, it is not necessarily picking the best players, but the players that can work for a system and can work in harmony and play together, and that’s what coach Hugo has done. That’s the secret."

He also believes that another factor working in favour of South Africa is the significant representation of Mamelodi Sundowns players, comprising almost half of Broos' squad in Ivory Coast.

"Another one which we can’t turn a blind eye to is the fact that this team has 10 Mamelodi Sundowns players, who know each other so well. Look at the understanding that exists among the back four."

The 2022-23 SAFJA Journalist of the Year summarised his thoughts on South Africa's push to the last four as follows:

"Unity, cohesion, team spirit. Players that know each other and a coach that has won the AFCON before."

Who's next for South Africa at AFCON?

Sports Brief also previously reported that South Africa's pursuit of their second AFCON title is still very much alive following their victory against Cape Verde in the quarter-finals.

This set up a semi-final clash between Bafana and Nigeria, the latter of whom has maintained an undefeated record in the tournament with two wins and a draw in the group stages.

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe photo
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe is a Ligue 1, Bundesliga, and La Liga editor with five-year experience. He previously worked with Sports Corna and 360SportsGH.