Former Bafana Bafana midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane said the national team, having lost the first game in Group E, are facing their most “difficult match” against Namibia at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on Sunday (22:00).
Bafana lost 2-0 to Mali in their opening group stage game on Tuesday, collapsing hugely in the second half after they held their own in the first stanza.
Bafana, to sum up a bad day in the office, even missed the penalty through Percy Tau and had to rue the missed chances of the first half as Mali scored twice to take the game away from the South Africans, who were left shell-shocked.
Namibia, unlike Bafana, beat Tunisia to record their first-ever win at the AFCON in their 10th attempt, which will see them have the wind in their sails against Bafana.
“This game is the most difficult that Bafana is going to play in group stages,” said Letsholonyane, who featured in 2013 and 15 AFCONs.
“And it is people who are our neighbors, people we know, know us well individually and as a group. We are low on confidence, and they are riding high having recorded their first win in the tournament.”
However, Bafana has never lost to Namibia at the AFCON. They crushed them 4-1 in the 1998 tournament when Benni McCarthy scored all four goals.
Bafana also beat Namibia 1-0 in the group stage match in the 2019 edition, which was enough to see them reach the knockout stages as one of the fourth-third-best teams.
Yeye, during his Bafana days, had the likes of Kagiso Dikgacio alongside him in the 2013 edition in South Africa as a cover, where they crashed out in the quarter-finals to Mali.
In the 2015 edition, Bafana had the likes of Andile Jali and Dean Furman, with the latter being the the biter and protector of the back four.
In this Bafana side, no one is of the same stature, and it was evident that they needed big boys in the midfield against Mali, as Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole were overrun.
This was the concern also raised by former Bafana striker Mark Williams ahead of the tournament as Bafana doesn’t have a strong holding midfielder.
“Modern game has moved towards not having aggressive players because we have other strengths that we should use,” argued Letsholonyane.
“First half against Mali, we played [well] without a ‘biter’. We could play a flowing game because technically we are good, it helps to build to the next phase of play.
“We don’t need to stress about we don’t have a biter. It’s more of trying to read the game properly, making those interceptions, and being in spaces at the right time.
“The issue that we need a biter, it shouldn’t be an excuse.”