Bafana Bafana, Percy Tau believe they can ‘do something special’

Bafana Bafana talisman Percy Tau says it’s all systems go for the team as they prepare to take on Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday evening. Picture: Fadel Senna/AFP

Bafana Bafana talisman Percy Tau says it’s all systems go for the team as they prepare to take on Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday evening. Picture: Fadel Senna/AFP

Published Jan 16, 2024


Bafana Bafana talisman Percy Tau says it’s all systems go for the team as they seek to create something special at the Africa Cup of Nations.

South Africa will get their Afcon campaign under way this evening against Mali at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium. Sure, this game is earmarked to set the tone of the tournament for both nations, and if history is anything to go by, there is already a lot at stake.

In their last two clashes in the biennial showpiece, Bafana lost to The Eagles in the quarter-final away in 2002 and at home most recently in 2013.

The South Africans lost the first encounter 2-0 in regulation time, before losing 3-1 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 after extra-time in Durban. A win for Bafana over Mali might not only be revenge for those defeats but could kick-start a title charge after 27 years.

It’s been an age

Since winning the continental showpiece in 1996, Bafana came close in 1998, losing to Egypt in the final, and then finished third two years later. Most recently, in 2019, SA were knocked out at the quarter-final stage.

Most of the players from that 2019 squad under Stuart Baxter have retired from the international stage after the changes in coaching personnel, with incumbent Hugo Broos going for form over popularity. Broos is also a huge admirer of Young Turks, as he believes that they are the future of the side.

Broos believes he can win his second Afcon with Bafana in Ivory Coast and repeat the success he had with Cameroon in 2017. However, Broos also knows that it won’t be easy. They’ll have to fight.

But after settling in comfortably at the Can Village and its plush training facilities at Lycee Modern de Korhogo, they have the tools to battle for the highest of honours.

“The pitch is wonderful,” Broos said earlier this week. “It’s really good when we have all we need to prepare and these grounds are very good for training.”

Broos wasn’t the only person that raved about the pitch conditions at Coulibaly or training facilities Lycee Modern de Korhogo since their arrival. Speaking at the pre-match media conference on Monday, Bafana’s vice-captain Tau told the gathering media about the great pitch conditions.

“We’ve handled everything quite well,” he explained. “We are looking forward to the games – the pitch is great, we saw it today in the morning.”

Of course, Bafana’s preparations this week were largely focused on Tuesday’s game against hoodoo side Mali but Tau is looking at Group E at large.

‘Mali are a tough side’

Said Tau: “We are playing against a tough side. Our group is difficult – we still have Namibia and Tunisia. We are looking forward to all those games.”

But while Tau might be looking forward to all three games in Group E, the team will have to first overcome a dangerous Mali in their opening game. However, confidence and belief doesn’t seem to be an issue for Broos’ team, as they believe they can emulate the Class of 1996 and rewrite history.

“We believe in ourselves. We are not over-confident, we are grounded. But we still believe that we can do something special,” Tau added.

Mali’s national team coach Éric Chelle, meanwhile, said The Eagles won’t take Bafana lightly. He felt the South Africans have improved greatly since the arrival of Broos.

“Since the arrival of the coach, they have changed,” said Chelle.

“They keep the ball well and find weaknesses in the opponents to exploit. They are very technical players. I’m very happy to play South Africa because they play good football.”

Contrary to what most experts believe, Chelle feels Bafana have an advantage because almost all the players are drawn from the DStv Premiership.

“They’re all playing in the same championship,” said the Malian.

“South Africa have won the Afcon before. We respect the South African team.

“We know that it won’t be an easy match. They’ve been participating in the Afcon for many years.

“We have our strengths and weaknesses. We’re determined to do well.”