Avatar photo

By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Three things we learned from Bafana loss to Mali

Phakaaathi takes a look at the three things we have learned from the game.

It was not the start Bafana Bafana had hoped for in their quest to reach the knockout stage of the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.

Bafana Bafana player ratings — Mali 2 South Africa 0

The 2-0 loss to Mali on Tuesday has left them with a mountain to climb in their next two games against Namibia and Tunisia.

The Brave Warriors stunned the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia 1-0 in what was an upset in Group E.

Phakaaathi takes a look at the three things we have learned from the game.

Centre-back pairing selection exposed

The biggest concern heading into the game was the central pairing coach Hugo Broos was going to opt for at the heart of defence.

With Mothobi Mvala passed fit for the opener, it was only logical for Broos to play the tough-tackling defender alongside his Mamelodi Sundowns teammate Grant Kekana. Both Mvala and Kekana have a better understanding in what is essentially a key area of the pitch.

The Belgian coach, however, partnered Mvala with Siyanda Xulu who was not at the races and was always caught for pace  whenever Bafana’s defence was under siege.

Mali’s second goal was testament to that when Lassine Sinayoko exposed Xulu’s lack of pace by bursting into the box to slot past a helpless Ronwen Williams.

No real leadership on the pitch

Credit to Percy Tau for shouldering the responsibility and taking the penalty because anyone can miss from the spot. However, I don’t agree with the coach’s reasoning after the game that they have a three men panel that consists of Tau, Teboho Mokoena and Aubrey Modiba who are allowed at any time take a penalty depending on who is more confident to do so.

Initially, it looked like Mokoena was going to step up from 12 yards out but Tau ended up taking the penalty and ballooned his effort over the bar. Broos was at pains to explain that at any given time, any of these three players can step up and take the penalty.

This stance is going to cause a lot of confusion because there’s a hierarchy in any top-level football team when it comes to decisive moments like that. You have your number one, two and three even if things don’t go according to plan but the leadership structure should be clear for everyone.

No Plan B from the bench

Broos should have at half-time taken off Xulu who has clearly struggling to keep up with the tempo of the game. The game model from Bafana is that they play from the back and Xulu is not really comfortable with the ball at his feet.

Mali coach Eric Chelle realised that Mokoena had Tottenham Hotspur superstar Yves Bissouma in his pocket and he made a bold call to replace him with Lassana Coulibaly 13 minutes into the second half. He gave them another dimension by pressing high and had the licence to go forward more than Bissouma did.

WATCH: Bafana’s Tau rues ‘unfortunate’ penalty miss

South Africa didn’t have answers as Mali grew stronger and looked fresher. Broos only made his first substitute 13 minutes after Bafana conceded the opener. The plan from Mali was to also stretch Bafana’s central defence because they clearly sensed that there was a weakness there. Both Mali’s goals came from mistakes at the centre of defence and the bench could only sit and watch as Bafana lost grip of the match.

Read more on these topics

Africa Cup of Nations Bafana Bafana Mali

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits