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Williams – Why I’m Worried About Bafana Midfield

Former Bafana Bafana striker Mark Williams is worried about the make-up of Bafana Bafana squad, saying they don’t have “biters” in the midfield like it was when he played for the national team.  

Williams mentioned that, when they won the AFCON trophy in 1996 on home soil, he had the Rolls Royce in the midfield in the form of Linda Buthelezi and Eric Tinkler.  

He said the Bafana side that has left the country for the Africa Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast – the midfield looks lightweight compared to those in West Africa such as Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Senegal.  

Bafana coach Hugo Broos selected Sphephelo Sithole, Thabang Monare and Teboho Mokoena as his holding midfielders, but Williams is not convinced.  

“We had Eric Tinkler, we had Linda Buthelezi – these guys could block,” said Williams, who will forever be remembered for scoring two goals in the AFCON final 27 years ago against Tunisia at FNB Stadium.  

“Who are the biters in this Bafana team that can bite and stop other teams? In this squad, we don’t have the cream that we had. I’m not saying the players are not good, but you need to build on something.  

“If you had to tell me three years ago, that the coach (Hugo Broos) was building around that Mamelodi Sundowns team for Bafana, by now we would have had that cream. 

“If you ask 10 people to name the South African team tomorrow, go to any place, I bet you not even five will not give you the right team. But if you have told them the ‘96 team, go to 100 people, 99 people would have said the team and that makes a big difference.”  

While Bafana lacks that bite Williams says it is required, he emphasised the importance of winning the opening match of the AFCON Group E against Mali on Tuesday to set the tone for them in booking a spot in the knockout stages, just like they did when they beat Cameroon 3-0 in the first game in 1996, when the former Kaizer Chiefs striker scored with a left-footed shot.   

“It is very important that we win against Mali and probably get a draw (in the next two matches), they can qualify. But this will mean they must beat Mali by more than two goals,” said Williams, who scored nine goals in 23 appearances for Bafana. 

“Mali can beat Namibia and get a draw against Tunisia. So, the first game is a must-win for Bafana and if they win the first game, they beat Namibia, we are through to the next round.”     

However, Bafana has not won an opening AFCON group-stage match since Siyabonga Nomvethe scored twice against Benin in the 2004 edition in Tunisia.  

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“That is a worry,” said Williams when he was told that Bafana has not won the opening AFCON group stage match in 20 years.

Robin-Duke Madlala
Robin-Duke Madlala
Robin-Duke Madlala is iDiski Times' KwaZulu-Natal-based web journalist. Boasting extensive experience in the South African football landscape, Robin-Duke has previously worked for Kick-Off Magazine, Soccer Laduma, and Daily Sun and Sunday Sun. He specialises in breaking news and transfers around South Africa’s big clubs in KZN.