Bafana get Afcon campaign to disappointing start with loss to Mali

17 January 2024 - 00:02
By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Aubrey Modiba of South Africa is challenged by Aliou Dieng of Mali during their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on 16 January 2024.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix Aubrey Modiba of South Africa is challenged by Aliou Dieng of Mali during their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on 16 January 2024.

Bafana Bafana suffered a 2-0 loss to Mali in their opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on Tuesday. 

South Africa held their own in the first half but Mali upped the tempo and dictated the match after the restart as they scored two goals in six minutes from captain Hamari Traore and Lassine Sinayoko in the 60th and 66th minutes respectively. 

As a result of this defeat, Bafana find themselves bottom of the log standings and they are already in a must-win situation in their next Group E match against unpredictable Namibia on Sunday. 

Namibia will go into that match with confidence sky high as they produced a gallant performance to stun Tunisia 1-0 as they registered their first win of the tournament in the earlier match Tuesday. 

Namibia’s win over former champions was secured through a late header by Orlando Pirates midfielder Deon Hotto. 

To keep their hopes alive in the tournament, Bafana will have to beat the Brave Warriors of Namibia in a match where coach Hugo Broos will be looking for an improved performance. 

The first real chance of the match saw Percy Tau unleash a shot from close range but he was denied by alert Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra after he received a cross from Thapelo Maseko. 

The chance followed a promising early spell where South Africa managed to settle in the match and shared the ball among themselves and in the process frustrated Mali. 

In one of Bafana’s attacking moves, Mali defender Sikou Niakite brought down elbowed Evidence Makgopa, who needed medical attention, with an elbow inside the penalty box. 

Niakite’s unsporting behaviour drew the attention of Egyptian referee Mohamed Hussien who awarded Bafana a penalty after he consulted with VAR but Tau failed to give Bafana the lead as he ballooned the ball over the cross-bar. 

Two minutes from the break, Mali suffered a blow as Boubacar Kouyate joined Niakite in the referee’s book and this meant they had have to play the entire second half with centre-backs on yellow cards. 

On the stroke of half time, Williams came out of his line to clear the effort of Sinayoko who managed to get the better of Siyanda Xulu and Mothobi Mvala who failed to communicate.

Mali could have got the second half on a good note but Amadou Haidara missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring after a Bafana player lost the ball in the midfield to put his defence under pressure. 

Bafana were punished on the hour mark when Mali captain Traore pounced from close range to finish a lose ball that rebounded off the cross-bar from a free-kick by Sekou Koita. 

For the opening goal, Mali were awarded free-kick after Mvala brought down Lassine Sinayoko on the edge of the box and Koita delivered a well-taken ball that ended with Haidara putting the ball in the net.

Mali put this match beyond doubt six minutes later when Sinayoko overpowered Xulu with his upper body strenght on the way to putting the ball past Williams for their second. 

Bafana hit the woodwork in the closing stages as they pushed for the consolation goal and they will have to regroup to get a favourable result against Namibia on Sunday.