BAFANA Bafana have always believed that anything is possible in the Africa Cup of Nations, said coach Gordon Igesund after Sunday night’s dramatic 2-2 draw against Morocco at Moses Mabhida Stadium to reach the quarterfinals.
South Africa showed fight to twice come back from a goal down and reach the knockout stages of the Afcon for the first time since 2002.
Morocco, who had disappointed before this match, came to life against Bafana with dynamic passing that threatened to tear the hosts apart. But the South Africans hung on, and fought back from Issam El Adoua’s 10th-minute opener and Abdelilah Hafdi’s 82nd-minute strike with magical goals from May Mahlangu (71st) and Siyabonga Sangweni (87th).
After losing his cool at the press at times before the tournament, Igesund has been the model of reserve in his interviews and press conferences during the Afcon. But asked if he believes anything is possible now his team have reached the knockout stages, the coach allowed himself a fired-up response.
“The question is do you believe it’s possible?” he countered.
“I’ve said it from day one and I can’t keep answering the same question. Because we’ve qualified now and there’s two games to the final, and of course I believe – I’ve believed all along.
“You’ve got to always be positive and have the right frame of mind and it rubs off on your players.
“But I’ve said it from day one – we need a bit of luck, we need to get momentum. And today was a very tough game, there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s always dangerous when you play a team with nothing to lose. I think we were brave again with an attacking formation. And I knew Morocco were going to score goals. I said we’ve just got to score a goal early, and unfortunately the setback was that Morocco scored a silly early goal.
“But we always believed – we stood as lone rangers and we said, ‘We’ve got to believe’. And why not?”
Bafana were saved on three occasions in one-on-ones by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune . Igesund admitted SA rode their luck, but said the positive was the result.
“There were negatives, of course, but we’ll sort those out ,” he said.
The coach said his brain had been racing with the permutations in the frenetic last 10 minutes as Group A went down to the wire because of Cape Verde’s late winner against Angola to qualify in second place. The 2-1 result in Port Elizabeth meant Bafana would have been out of the Afcon had Sangweni not scored.
“I knew the update and Angola were leading. Then I knew Cape Verde had come back.
“And I realised at that moment there was a very tough decision to be made, because once Cape Verde were 1-1, and we were losing 2-1, Cape Verde would have thrown caution to the wind and gone crazy. … And we had to make sure that, after getting to 2-2, we weren’t going to concede a goal again in that last three minutes.
“I mean, it’s really a beautiful game. You have these exciting moments, and pressure. But at the end of the day, you know what, it’s only a game, and I’m just happy we came out on top.”