The five-goal thriller in Bafana Bafana’s win over Uganda in an international friendly on Thursday underlined what is expected of the team under the new technical team.
This assessment was made by assistant coach Helman Mkhalele, who was the stand-in coach in the teams’ 3-2 victory at Orlando Stadium.
Since a 4-2 win over São Tomé and Príncipe in an Afcon qualifier last November, a ruthless Bafana has been a rare sight. The 6-0 demolition of the Seychelles in 2018 remains South Africa’s biggest win.
Mkhalele, however, said goal-scoring was one aspect the technical staff was hoping to make the norm going forward. “I believe in a team that can score more goals and defend well. The result [against Uganda] gives me the belief that it’s doable,” the former Bafana midfielder told the media at the post-match conference.
“It must be a habit to score a minimum of three goals. Actually, I told the players before the game that they could score five goals. Yes, games won’t be easy. Right now we are all happy but I believe this will serve as an inspiration to the other players to make use of the opportunities.”
Bafana came from a goal down in the first half and survived a late scare from the Cranes to hold on to a hard-fought win. It was the first game since Hugo Broos succeeded Molefi Ntseki as the team’s head coach last month.
The Belgian missed the match because he returned home to get his second jab of the Covid-19 vaccine, while the fist assistant coach Cedomir Janevski had to isolate after he tested positive for coronavirus on the eve of the match.
Mkhalele handed debuts to seven players, among them two-goal hero Evidence Makgopa of Baroka FC.
Others were Makgopa’s club team-mate Denwin Farmer, the Mamelodi Sundowns duo of Rushine de Reuck and Sphelele Mkhulise, TS Galaxy’s Ethan Brooks, Craig Martin of Cape Town City and Nkosinathi Sibisi of Golden Arrows.
It was rare move by any Bafana coach to unleash so many novices at a go. Mkhalele cited this as one of the factors that contributed to the team’s confusing start, which drew much criticism from those who were following the match on television.
The starting line-up had seven defensive players and hardly gelled until the substitution of Farmer and Sibisi opened the way for more attacking players.
“We really struggled in central midfield during the first half. That is where Uganda penetrated us so easily, while building from the back.
I attribute that to lack of experience by our boys, they were also nervous,” admitted the coach who lifted the 1996 Afcon with Bafana.
“Also, we never had a game to build the combinations for our team. We had two training sessions with about 11 players who had never played together. This contributed in us not being able to manage the game effectively.
“Going forward, we will look at building fluid combinations, building right from the back. We played too many sideways and backward passes unnecessarily. So once the boys start to understand our philosophy, we are going to build a strong team that will be competitive, not only in African football but in world football.”
Mkhalele said the emphasis during the camp was more on the mental aspect – to instil self-belief and what it meant to wear the Bafana jersey.