Jonty Mark

By Jonty Mark

Football Editor

Last 16 route opens up for Bafana but Tunisia test awaits

A loss to Tunisia and a draw between Mali and Namibia would still send Bafana home.

This Africa Cup of Nations of shock results has helped Bafana Bafana’s quest to qualify for the knockout rounds, but they still face a nail-biting final Group E match against Tunisia at the Stade Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on Wednesday evening (kick off 7pm SA time).

The stunning capitulation of Ivory Coast and the amazing comeback by Mozambique against Ghana on Monday left Bafana, even if they finish third in their group, almost guaranteed a place in the last 16.

With four of the six best third-place finishers also making it through, Bafana’s points tally and goal difference boost from their 4-0 win over Namibia on Sunday has put them in a very strong position. However, there remains a possibility that Hugo Broos’ side could finish bottom of their group and exit the competition.

If Tunisia beat Bafana on Wednesday, and Mali fail to beat Namibia, then Bafana will be out, and the optimism garnered from Sunday’s performance will disappear as quickly as it arrived.

Mali will be heavy favourites to beat the Brave Warriors, of course, especially after Namibia’s demolition at the hands of Bafana. But this Nations Cup has no room for favourites, as Namibia showed in beating Tunisia in their opening Group E match.

Worrying about the result in the Namibia-Mali match, which kicks off at the same time today, will be something Broos’ team will want to avoid, and a point or better against Tunisia will guarantee them a spot in the last 16.

‘The boys learned their lesson’

Bafana can take plenty of confidence into this game, on the back of their hammering of Namibia, in which Broos praised his side for playing in an ‘un-South African’ way.

“Maybe today was not the football of South Africa,” said Broos.

“We are a team who likes to play football, and sometimes in the most difficult moments. I think the boys learned their lesson (from the opening 2-0 defeat to Mali).

“We had a debriefing two days after the (Mali) game and we showed them the things we didn’t have to do any more. What is wrong with kicking the ball in front, even when there is nobody (there), when you are in trouble?

“That is what we did (against Namibia). Maybe our football was more realistic.”

“And I’m happy that we know it doesn’t always have to be nice football with good combinations. Sometimes you have to fight for it.”

Bafana may well need to show their grit again against a Tunisia side that simply has to win to make it into the next round, after picking up just one point from their opening two Group E matches.

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