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    Bafana Bafana rue missed chances and pay the price in Afcon opener

    In football they say, “moments when lost, can’t be found again. They’re just gone.”

    Bafana Bafana know this too well after paying the price for their missed opportunities in their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) group E opener against Mali on Tuesday night. The game took place at the A.G Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo, Ivory Coast, and was largely filled with Malian fans bustling the atmosphere with their voices.

    The 2-0 defeat suffered by South Africa was not a testament to their first half performance in the game but a showing of what happens when you do not finish the job.

    Despite a bright display of football in what seemed to be a game where Bafana Bafana would continue the trend of shock victories by underdogs thus far in the tournament, things just did not go according to plan. Al Ahly forward, Percy Tau was gifted an opportunity to give Bafana the lead after just 17 minutes into the game when referee Mohamed Adel pointed to the penalty spot after a VAR review. However he failed to convert his spot kick and saw the ball sail over the bar. This opportunity typified the first half for Bafana, a half filled with many chances yet poor final execution.

    After the hour mark, the Eagles could not be subdued and came out firing on all cylinders. A foul committed by Mothobi Mvala on the edge of the box resulted in a free kick near the 18-yard area, which was struck ferociously and ended up rattling the crossbar. With sharp awareness, Mali captain Hamrai Traore was quicker than the South African defence on his feet and netted home the rebound to give Mali a 1-0 lead in the second half.

    Exactly 5 minutes later, Les Eagles showed their dominance and stamped their victory through a powering run from skipper Lassine Sinayoko to give Mali a 2-0 lead. He muscled his way through Siyanda Xulu, which symbolised the theme for the second half, it was simply men against boys.

    Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos did not have a response to his opposition’s attacking prowess, and neither did his players. This defeat serves as the third loss Bafana have suffered at the hands of Mali in the AFCON tournament and continues a sixth winless drought in AFCON tournament openers for the South African men’s team.

    This was not the start South African fans were hoping for, leaving many eager to see what tactical changes will take place ahead of their must-win game against Namibia on Sunday night. With pressure mounting, the team faces an uphill battle as the Namibian men’s team is no longer the easy fixture they once used to be. This was shown after the Brave Warriors shocked Tunisia with a 1-0 victory to go top of group E a few hours prior to the Bafana opener. Namibia possesses a powerful attacking team, led by prolific forwards Peter Shalulile and Deon Hotto. Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Rowen Williams, along with his defence line will unquestionably face a tough test.

    Seemingly confident, Coach Hugo Broos has already set his sights on the next game against Namibia. In his post-match interview, he told the media, “Now we play Namibia and I think we have to win, even with a draw it will be difficult to go through the group stages. I will tell the boys that if we can go out like we played, I’m sure we can win against Namibia.”

    Here’s what fans reacting to the game had to say on X:

    @solphendukaa posted, “I still have faith Bafana will make it far in this Afcon.”

    @Dima_Mawandla posted, “You guys are hurting because you love Bafana Bafana. All the thing you say are out of love and hurt. Let’s regroup for Sunday”

    @uNdu_Mk posted, “There is no number 10 who plays like he does for Bafana Bafana, this fraud must leave with Broos”

    With a handful of mixed reactions from fans, there are those that still see a chance and remain optimistic. It was the first game of the tournament and Bafana must pull together as a team to get the job done, starting on Sunday against Namibia.

    Hopes are high while anxiety starts to seep into the air, can Bafana Bafana overcome their woes?

    Main image: GoalBall

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