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Bafana & Ivory Coast Play To Entertaining Draw

Bafana Bafana and Ivory Coast played to an entertaining 1-1 draw in a high intensity international friendly at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny on Tuesday night.

It was an action-packed thriller in the sweltering Ivorian capital, as both teams put in an impressive high-intensity performance, not often seen in friendly internationals.

Pregame Hugo Broos had suggested that Bafana should take inspiration from the Springboks’ passion after their never-say-die attitude helped them beat France on the weekend at the World Cup. And it certainly seemed like they heeded his advice, as the South Africans put in a strong effort against their loftier opponents.

It starkly contrasted to Friday night’s badly attended Bafana game against eSwatini at the FNB Stadium, as the Abidjan arena was filled to capacity with the locals, wearing their nation’s orange colours as the Elephants took on Bafana for an eighth time.

Broos made six changes to the team that played to that goalless match last Friday, including the return of captain Ronwen Williams to the starting line-up. Jean Louis Gasset made just one alteration to his team that drew 1-1 with Morocco on Saturday.

The hosts of the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations attacked from kick-off, looking to take control of possession, but an early attack and corner led to nothing. For a few minutes, they looked to size Bafana out, as they held onto the possession.

But an error led to South Africa taking the lead. The South Africans would silence the partisan crowd as they pounced on an error, turned on the skill, and some great interplay between Teboho Mokoena and Themba Zwane led to the latter opening the scoring in just the eighth minute. 

Mokoena stole the ball as the Ivorians tried to clear their lines, Zwane gathered it, he sent a through pass to Mokoena who was charging into the box, and he cut it back for Zwane who left Yahya Fofana with no chance.

The ‘sizing up’ was over and the Elephants saw they had a game on their hands, and two minutes later Bongokuhle Hlongwane forced Fofana into making a good save, and Mihlali Mayambela was unable to get the follow-up on target.

It looked like the Ivorians would equalise in the fifteenth minute when two players beat the off-side trap and raced toward the box, but Seko Fofana’s ball went across the face of the goal. A minute later the same player shot directly at Williams, but without power.

It was end-to-end action now, and Fofana had another chance in the 26th minute, but this time his shot was blocked by the Bafana defence. A minute later Sebastien Haller headed just over from a good Ghislain Konan cross.

A terrible mix-up by Bafana in defence in the 31st minute almost led to an equaliser as Mothobi Mvala’s miskicked clearance gifted the ball to Haller, who chipped over Williams, only for the ball to strike the upright before being cleared. It was action at the other end a minute later as Yahya Fofana had to make a save to deny Mokoena from close range. 

But the Elephants kept knocking and a great last-gasp tackle by Khuliso Mudau stopped their advances in the 35th minute. Wilfried Zaha had a chance two minutes later, but he too fired over.

Back and forth they kept going and there was a sense of relief when the halftime whistle blew, with Broos’ team holding the narrow lead.

The question was could the pace of the first half be maintained in the second? It certainly looked that way as they kicked off, and attacked immediately, Zwane had a chance in the opening minute, but his shot from the edge of the area was blocked.

Two minutes later the action was at the other end and Williams made an excellent save to deny Fofana, before an attack by Bafana saw Hlongwane go down in the box, but no penalty was awarded.

Mudau should have made it 2-0 to Bafana in the 53rd minute, with just the goalkeeper to beat, his shot went across the goal and narrowly missed. 

Bafana were starting to find space to play in and Lebo Mothiba forced a good save from Fofana in the 55th minute. It was a rare shot from Mothiba, who was though having a good game causing all sorts of problems for the Ivorian defence.

The Elephants had a chance at the other end and it was the other Fofana again, this time firing into the side netting. Yaya Sithole fired high and wide in the 60th minute, after a good passage of play for Bafana.

The Ivory Coast attack were taking control again and kept knocking, and finally, the goal came, as Wilfried Zingo’s cross found an unmarked Haller rose up well to head in the equaliser in the 66th minute, leaving Williams with no chance.

Buoyed on by their fans, the Elephants looked for the winner and Williams made a brilliant save to deny Hamed Traore in the 69th minute, getting down to low to touch the goal-bound strike behind. Max Gradel fired over from a dangerous free kick two minutes later.

With tired legs and numerous substitutions happening, the intensity dropped slightly in the final twenty, but Gradel had a chance in the 80th minute, however, he was unable to keep his header on target. 

Just before being subbed off, Ivorian captain Franck Kessie’s long-range attempt in the 89th minute went wide of goal.

Traore had a chance early in the eight minutes of stoppage time but his attempted bicycle kick was deflected behind. It was helter-skelter in the Bafana box for a few minutes as the home team looked for a winner, but the South Africans managed to survive, and even almost had a chance of their own to win the game.

But at the final whistle, it ended an entertaining draw and with both these nations at next year’s Afcon finals, they could possibly meet again soon to settle the score.

Rob Delport
Rob Delport
Rob Delport is a walking football encyclopedia, having been a mainstay in the Cape Town football scene for years. Rob has previously worked for SABC and various websites and publications across Africa, as well as being the South African Head Researcher for Football Manager and doing a similar role occasionally for EA Sports FIFA. Highly respected, Rob is now a senior iDiski Times website and newspaper writer, and is also responsible for the newspaper's editorial.