Bafana goalkeeper #1 Ronwen Williams celebrates with head coach Hugo Broos after winning at the end of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 quarter-final football match between Cape Verde and South Africa at the Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro on February 3, 2024. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)
Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos said his team’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign must already be considered a success after they reached the last four on Saturday, but the veteran Belgian insisted “the hunger is big” to go all the way to the final.
Bafana Bafana beat Cape Verde 2-1 on penalties in the last eight after a goalless 120 minutes in Ivorian capital Yamoussoukro, with goalkeeper and captain Ronwen Williams producing a remarkable four saves in the shoot-out.
“Let’s say six hours ago I was 71, now I am 75. It was a very stressful game, certainly with penalties,” admitted Broos.
South Africa are now into their first Cup of Nations semi-final since 2000 and will face much-fancied Nigeria on Wednesday.
“Today I saw and felt that my players were really nervous. There was a lot of pressure because everyone wanted to qualify for the semi-finals, and we didn’t play like in our previous matches,” admitted Broos, whose team had beaten Morocco 2-0 against the odds in the last 16.
They will again be the underdogs against Victor Osimhen’s Super Eagles in Bouake, leaving Broos to claim his side “have nothing to lose”.
“It is maybe bizarre for me to say that but for us our AFCON has already been a success. We are in the semi-finals. Nobody thought we would do that when we left South Africa to come here.
“There will be less pressure on us, I am certain of that. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to play the final, certainly not.”
Broos has revived the fortunes of South Africa, having taken over following their failure to qualify for the last Cup of Nations two years ago.
While many of Africa’s leading national sides lean heavily on players who belong to leading European clubs, Broos’s squad is almost entirely comprised of stars from the South African league.
His starting line-up against Cape Verde, which was unchanged for a fourth successive game, featured eight players from the country’s dominant club Mamelodi Sundowns.
Raising the standard
They are one of the finest teams on the continent, but there was still some scepticism as to whether South Africa would be good enough to make a big impact in Ivory Coast.
“I think there were many people in South Africa who didn’t believe in the team, but we believed. The players believed that it could happen, and it happened, and I think this is a very good thing for South African football,” said the coach.
“South African players are in the picture now, so that means there will be more interest for South African football.
“I hope that those who saw the games are now convinced that the level of the PSL (Premier Soccer League) has to be higher. We have to work on that.
“I think it is the right moment to do that now, but again being in the semi-final is something very special for South African football and let’s hope now that maybe we can make a surprise again because now the hunger is big to play that final next Sunday.”
Broos is now close to repeating his remarkable achievement with Cameroon, who he led to an unexpected AFCON title in Gabon in 2017.
He believes there are similarities between that campaign and his current team’s run.
“I am not superstitious. But when you see the run we are having, and you see the run we had with Cameroon it is almost exactly the same,” he said.
“It is kind of the same path. It was the case seven years ago with Cameroon. Nobody believed, nobody. And we won the AFCON.
“Let’s hope we will do the same thing with South Africa.”
© Agence France-Presse