It looks like Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos is on to something, and the signs are good.
Broos’ new-look Bafana have found their form at the perfect time – just as the country is about to welcome fans back at stadiums – following their 3-1 away victory over Ethiopia yesterday.
The lucky fans who are set to make it into FNB Stadium on Tuesday could be in for a treat. Should Bafana secure a third victory in Group H, they could move another step closer to qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
They will be looking to secure back-to-back wins over Ethiopia after their superb 3-1 win at Bahir Dar Stadium thanks to goals from Teboho Mokoena, Mothobi Mvala and Evidence Makgopa.
Bafana, who are looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2002, consolidated their position at the top of Group H with seven points after two wins and a draw.
The Bafana camp was plagued with off-the-field drama heading into the clash.
Any Bafana supporter would be forgiven for being concerned by Broos’ penchant of disclosing internal team problems.
The first was a matter that involved Orlando Pirates midfielder Goodman Mosele, who failed to pitch for the national team camp, which Broos lambasted him for in the middle of the week. Reports later revealed that Mosele had a personal issue that prevented him from being part of the team.
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In a separate matter, Broos effectively accused Mamelodi Sundowns of sabotage after Thabiso Kutumela had his Covid-19 vaccine just before the camp began. The coach said Kutumela would be withdrawn from the team for this. However, the striker was cleared by the medical team and was in the starting line-up for this match.
Broos could have handled both situations better. At this early stage of this tenure, he doesn’t need to create enemies.
In yesterday’s match, which was played at a venue 500km away from the Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, the home side had the upper hand early on.
Ethiopia had three clear goal-scoring opportunities, but goalkeeper Ronwen Williams had other ideas. The skipper made superb stops to prevent the hosts from taking the lead.
It was a different story in the opposite goal as keeper Fasil Gebremichael was a spectator for much of the first half, until he was bamboozled by a free kick from Mokoena just before the interval.
Gebremichael was left with egg on his face as he fumbled what should have been an easy catch into the net.
Ethiopia found the equaliser through a familiar face. Ex-Bidvest Wits and AmaTuks striker Getaneh Kebede scored through a free kick that Williams could only watch as it sailed into the back of the net in the 67th minute.
Broos’ squad selection has been questioned by many, but some of his decisions are now starting to make sense.
A player such as Nyiko Mobbie was selected not only for his hard running, but also for his throw-in capabilities. It was his thrown-in that led to the second goal as Mvala struck home from close range in the 72nd minute.
It looks as though the coach was not too concerned about the form of his players, but rather the qualities and versatile skills they each bring to the team.
Having started upfront with Tshegofatso Mabasa and Kutumela, striker Evidence Makgopa was introduced into the match in the second half to finish off the opponents.
Makgopa had the presence of mind to lob the ball over the flat-footed Gebremichael to score the third goal of the match.
Another victory over Ethiopia on Tuesday will put Bafana in a commanding position going into the final two matches against Zimbabwe and Ghana.