This Bafana Bafana trio can tame duo at the heat of Morocco’s Atlas Lions

Themba Zwane in action for Bafana Bafana during their Africa Cup of Nations Finals clash against Tunisia. Photo: Mehrez Toujani/BackpagePix

Themba Zwane in action for Bafana Bafana during their Africa Cup of Nations Finals clash against Tunisia. Photo: Mehrez Toujani/BackpagePix

Published Jan 30, 2024


Bafana Bafana and Morocco will want to take a step closer to the Africa Cup of Nations' final when they meet in the last 16 in San-Pedro, Ivory Coast, tonight.

Here, MIHLALI BALEKA looks at five players who could win the match for their respective nations.


Zwane has been one of the standout players in the ongoing biennial showpiece as he scored a brace and walked away with the player-of-the-match award on two occasions.

However, with the round robin group stage done and dusted, according to experts it's only now in the knockout stage that the competition will finally start. That's why coach Hugo Broos will need his best players to be in top form and Zwane is chief among them with his trickery feet and eye for goal.

So, the 34-year-old needs to continue with what he's been doing and get into scoring positions, while feeding the strikers in the final third as well.


A lot of experts believe that Mokoena should move to a better team and league after the tournament, following his exploits for Bafana and Mamelodi Sundowns.

At Sundowns, Mokoena was part of the team that finished in the Champions League semi-final last season and won the inaugural African Football League this term. Mokoena has brought that scintillating form to the national team as he racked up an assist in the 4-0 thumping of Namibia.

Mokoena is not expected to rest on his laurels in the knockout stage, and football people have tipped him to be a force to be reckoned with in the midfield.

Mokoena is not only good with his distribution – short and long passes – but he's also got a knack for goals, thanks to his trademark long-range strikes.


Tau arrived at the Afcon finals with a lot of expectation resting on his shoulders, having won the CAF Champions League last season and finished third at the Club World Cup with Al Ahly.

But it was his coronation as the CAF InterClub Player of the Year that piled more pressure on his shoulders amid the tournament. His campaign didn't get off to an ideal start as he missed a penalty in the 2-0 loss to Mali before he revived himself with a penalty conversion against Namibia.

Tau could still improve, though.

And given his knowledge of Moroccan football, as they face Wydad Casablanca regularly in continental competitions, perhaps the time for him to step up has come.


Despite having a topsy-turvy debut season with Manchester United in England, Amrabat is expected to deliver week in and week out for the Atlas Lions. But this campaign hasn't been his best compared to the World Cup where his heroics guided the team to the semi-final.

Amarabat still has a chance of guiding his nation to the quarter- final. Hence, he'll have to be solid in the engine room, break up the opposition's attacks and help in build-ups when they have possession.


Bafana's defence conceded only two goals in the group stage, but their defensive strength will be put to the test by the Atlas Lions' attacking unit, which should be led by En-Nesyri.

The 26-year-old has been Morocco's talisman in recent years as he boasts 18 goals from 67 caps so far. One of those goals was from the two matches he played in the group stage.

So, knowing that goals win teams matches, especially in a knockout tie, En-Nesyri will be eager to find those crucial strikes for his nation.*

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