Bafana get 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign to promising start

Percy Tau of South Africa and Rodrigue Kossi of Benin during the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Moses Mabhida Stadium on November 18 2023 in Durban.
Percy Tau of South Africa and Rodrigue Kossi of Benin during the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Moses Mabhida Stadium on November 18 2023 in Durban.

Bafana Bafana got their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign off to a promising start when they beat Benin 2-1 in a match Hugo Broos’s side dominated in every aspect, except scoring more goals.

Percy Tau capped his 40th appearance in a Bafana shirt with a goal, the Al Ahly attacker scoring his 14th goal for the national team.

Khuliso Mudau, the Mamelodi Sundowns right back, increased Bafana’s lead on the stroke of halftime, tapping home after Tau and Themba Zwane combined around Benin’s area.  

Bafana were guilty of gifting Benin’s skipper Steve Mounie his side’s consolation goal in the 69th minute, with dependable midfielder Teboho Mokoena guilty of losing possession in front of Ronwen Williams’ goal.   

Leading up to this clash Broos had spoken about the need for Bafana to start on a good note if they are to mount a serious challenge and correct the mistakes they made in 2021 when they failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Bafana last qualified for the global showpiece 21 years ago, but in this campaign, they have a bigger chance as Africa has nine automatic spots in the 2026 event instead of the usual five.

With nine more matches to go, including Tuesday’s trip to Rwanda, there’s still a long way for Bafana and Broos to realise the country’s dream. But the win here does put Bafana in the driving seat in group C that also includes Zimbabwe, Lesotho and their old nemesis Nigeria, who were shocked by Lesotho in their opening qualifier on Thursday.  

Nigeria played a 1-1 against SA’s neighbours, while Zimbabwe earned a point in their 0-0 draw against Rwanda ahead of their match today against the Super Eagles in Rwanda.  

Broos did say Bafana may not need to beat Nigeria to qualify from this group as countries that are regarded as minnows (because of their ranking) are capable of springing as surprise or two, just as Lesotho did to the Super Eagles in Abuja on Thursday.

This victory gives Bafana a lot of confidence going their second qualifier against Rwanda in Uye on Tuesday and a win there will keep them on top of group C ahead of resuming qualification in June next year with a trip to Nigeria.  

While Broos will be happy with the win, that Bafana conceded and failed to add to Tau and Mudau’s goals despite their domination will leave the Belgian tactician hugely frustrated. 

Bafana had numerous opportunities to score as many goals, especially in the first half, but Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Zwane and Tau opted to have too many extra touches around the area when a shot would have done the trick.  

There were also anxious moments for Broos when his defence, which started with a central pairing of Siyanda Xulu and Mothobi Mvala, often lost possession when they were trying to build from the back alongside Williams.

Broos prefers to move the ball quicker to the opposition half, but looked irritated on bench when his players took their time trying to penetrate down the middle where Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole operated.

Broos started the match with Orlando Pirates striker Evidence Makgopa ahead of his Pirates teammate Zakhele Lepasa, who has gone off the boil after starting the 2023-2024 campaign like a house on fire, scoring 10 goals before his current dry spell.  

Makgopa, who was replaced by Lapasa in the second half, is not new in Broos’s team. He was Broos’s main striker immediately after taking the job of coaching Bafana in May 2021.

Watched by a reasonably vociferous crowd of more than 15,000 people, Bafana showed some glimpses of how good they can be if they’re a little sharper and more ruthless in front of goal.   

Benin clearly came with a plan to force a draw, but conceding early forced the West African visitors to come out of their shell to try and cancel Tau’s goal.

Mounie’s goal did give Benin some belief, but Bafana did well to hold on to their slim victory.


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