Bafana turn the tables to stun Morocco in dead-rubber Afcon qualifier

South Africa players celebrate goal during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match between South Africa and Morocco at FNB Stadium on June 17, 2023.
South Africa players celebrate goal during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match between South Africa and Morocco at FNB Stadium on June 17, 2023.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Bafana Bafana were expected to suffer against this star-studded Moroccan side but they turned the tables in emphatic style as they dished out what is possibly their best performance under coach Hugo Broos. 

With this 2-1 victory over the more fancied Atlas Lions in front of a good and passionate crowd at FNB Stadium on Saturday night, Bafana climbed to the top of Group K with seven points, but they may be overtaken by Morocco who still have to play against Liberia. 

There was concern this match may turn out to be a dull dead-rubber affair as both teams had already qualified for next year's Afcon in Ivory Coast, but it turned out to be competitive football match that excited the fans. 

This victory was made sweeter by the fact it came a few days after the burial of celebrated former Bafana coach Clive Barker whose life the country is celebrating for leading the team to Afcon success in 1996.

Morocco were the favourites because coach Walid Regragui started the match with world-class players like Achraf Hkimi of PSG in France, Nayef Aguerd of West Ham in England, Hakin Ziyech of Chelsea in England and Oussama Idrissi of Feyenoord in the Netherlands. 

In the build-up to this match, Broos challenged his players to rise to the occasion and they were not overawed by the occasion as they produced a good performance that will give them confidence going into the Afcon tournament next year. 

Bafana got off to a blistering start with the likes of Thapelo Morena, Mihlali Mayambela, Percy Tau and Zakhele Lepasa threatening the Moroccan defence that was marshaled by Aguerd and Ghanem Saiss. 

South Africa went ahead after seven minutes when Morocco goalkeeper Monir El Kajoui forgot the basics of goalkeeping when he fumbled what looked like a speculative cross by Tau into his own net, exciting the fans. 

South Africa were on the ascendancy and a few minutes later produced a devastating attacking move that ended with El Kajoui forced to produce a stunning diving save to deny Mayambela from close range. This Bafana team was completely different to the one that lost 2-1 to Morocco away from home in the first game of the qualifiers in June last year with only two players from that match surviving in the starting line-up. 

Only Percy Tau and Ronwen Williams started last year's match in Rabat and there was no place for Lyle Forster, Thembinkosi Lorch, Lyle Lakay, Sphephelo Sithole, Goodman Mosele, Khuliso Mudau, Taariq Fielies, Thibang Phete and Grant Kekana. 

South Africa got the second half off to the best possible start when Lepasa found the back of the net after 48 minutes when he pounced on a loose ball that rebounded off the feet of a beaten El Kajoui inside the box. 

For the second goal, Themba Zwane started the attacking move from his own half where he eliminated a few Moroccan players before he released a defence-splitting pass to Mayambela whose close-range shot hit the legs of El Kajoui. 

The ball fell on the path of Lepasa who did the rest, but Morocco pulled one back after 60 minutes through star attacker Ziyach who gave Bafana defender Mothobi Mvala and 'keeper Williams no chance with a thunderous strike

South Africa could have sealed the game with nine minutes to go but midfielder Teboho Mokoena blasted his shot over the crossbar and that miss did not come back to haunt him and his teammates as they held on for this memorable victory. 

Action was concluded by a streaker who ran on the pitch during the closing stages providing more excitement for the fans.


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