Sphephelo Sithole: Bafana Bafana Midfielder Reflects on AFCON 2023, Identifies Toughest Opponent

Sphephelo Sithole: Bafana Bafana Midfielder Reflects on AFCON 2023, Identifies Toughest Opponent

Robert Abong'o
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:04 AM
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  • Sphephelo Sithole identifies Mali’s Amadou Haidara as his toughest AFCON 2023 opponent
  • ‘Yaya’ and Teboho Mokoena formed a formidable midfield partnership for South Africa
  • Sithole notes the team’s adaptability to meet coach Hugo Broos' tactics and playing style

Bafana Bafana midfielder, Sphephelo Sithole, has shared insights from his experience at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

‘Yaya’, as he is commonly known, has highlighted the challenges he faced, and the partnerships forged during the tournament in Abidjan.

Reflecting on his team's third-place finish, Sithole pinpointed Amadou Haidara of Mali as his most formidable opponent.

Mali's midfielder Amadou Haidara in action against South Africa at the AFCON 2023 tournament. Photo: Fadel Senna.
Mali's midfielder Amadou Haidara (C) fights for the ball with South Africa's Mothobi Mvala (R) during the AFCON 2023 Group E match on January 16. Photo: Fadel Senna.
Source: Getty Images

He praised Haidara's prowess both with and without the ball, acknowledging the physical and mental strength he brought to the game.

“Amadou Haidara, that guy is very good, with the ball and without the ball as well, he is very good,” he explained. Everything about him, without the ball, he is very physical, with the ball he can play well, he has a good mentality, he was pushing the team to its best at all times,” he said, as quoted by iDiski Times.

Despite initially struggling with Mali's high press and pace in the opening match, Sithole found his footing and played a crucial role alongside Teboho Mokoena in securing the bronze medal for South Africa.

This achievement marked a significant milestone for the nation, considering their absence from the podium since 2000 and failure to qualify for the tournament's previous edition.

Speaking about his partnership with Mokoena, Sithole stressed their complementary playing styles. While he operates as a holding midfielder, breaking up opposition attacks, Mokoena takes on a more advanced role, driving the team forward and creating scoring opportunities.

He praised the Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder as a talented footballer and a great person, expressing confidence in his potential to succeed overseas. He also discussed how their playing styles align with coach Hugo Broos' tactics, underlining their versatility to adapt to different roles on the field.

“I think in terms of quality, we have similar qualities. I can play as a box-to-box and him as well can play box-to-box. He can also play as a 6 and 8,” he said, as reported by Far Post.

Overall, Sithole's reflections offer valuable insights into the dynamics of the Bafana Bafana team and the challenges they overcame during their AFCON journey.

Percy Tau errors haunt South Africa against Mali

Sports Brief reported when South Africa lost their opening AFCON 2023 game to Mali on January 16 at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium.

A bright first half for Bafana Bafana gave way to a passive second with the West Africans wrestling momentum.

At the time, the result left Bafana needing at least a win and draw to progress to the Round of 16.

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Robert Abong'o
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