Bafana success is ‘no surprise’ for midfield maestro Mokoena
'A quarterfinal is not new to us. We must take it a step higher (now) and leave the national team in a better place than we found it,' said the Bafana midfielder.
Bafana midfielder Teboho Mokoena celebrates after his brilliant free kick against Morocco. Picture: SIA KAMBOU / AFP
Teboho Mokoena says it is no surprise that Bafana Bafana have reached the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals, and that it is now up to every team left in the competition to lift the trophy, with so many favourites already gone home.
The Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder put up a brilliant, Man-of-the-Match display against Morocco on Tuesday, as Bafana knocked out the number one ranked team on the continent. Morocco’s exit means that all of the top five ranked teams in Africa are now out of the competition.
Bafana will now face Cape Verde on Saturday at the Stade Charl Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro for a place in the semifinals. Victory would put Bafana in the last four at an AFCON for the first time in 24 years.
“The top five teams in Africa are all out, so it is up to us or the other teams (left) to take the tropy,” Mokoena told reporters after his amazing free kick had set the seal on a 2-0 win over the Atlas Lions.
“In 2019 we went to the quarterfinals, so it is no surprise, a quarterfinal is not new to us. We must take it a step higher (now) and leave the national team in a better place than we found it. That is our goal.”
Stuart Baxter’s Bafana were beaten by Nigeria in the quarterfinals in 2019 (Bafana failed to qualify for the AFCON in 2021), and Bafana do have an easier task, on paper, against Cape Verde.
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“Our expectations are to take it one game at a time, in this tournament … no one can see who is going to win it,” added Mokoena.
The Sundowns star also explained how Bafana executed their game plan to take down Morocco.
“We know that Morocco are very strong on the sides, with (Achraf) Hakimi and (Azeddine) Ounahi and the winger (Morocco’s wingers against Bafana were Amine Adli and Abde Ezzalzouli).
“We dealt with that and we closed their game plan, their centre back didn’t know where to pass the ball.”