Hugo Broos addresses the media (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)
- Bafana Bafana began their Africa Cup of Nations preparations in Stellenbosch on Friday.
- All 23 players called up for national duty reported for camp after being given a few days off to rest and spend time with their families, following a gruelling first half of the season.
- The team will fly to Ivory Coast on Wednesday ahead of their opening match against Mali on 16 January.
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The hard-to-please Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos was a happy man after the team held its first training session in Stellenbosch on Friday, as its Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) preparations started in earnest.
The team assembled in Johannesburg on Thursday evening before flying to the Western Cape on Friday morning. This after players were given a few days off, with the last round of the DStv Premiership matches played on the weekend of 30 and 31 December.
It’s an arrangement Broos has been clear in being against, slamming the Premier Soccer League at every chance he gets for its failure to support the national team. But Broos was in good spirits after Bafana held their first training session, even heaping praise on the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport facilities the team is using.
“First of all, I am happy that all 23 players are here,” Broos told SAFA media.
“It’s a full team. To start the first training session with all players is always good. Second, maybe it’s too soon, but I got the feeling that the players wanted to start. They wanted to train and prepare for the Afcon. Yes, I have a good feeling.
“The four days that the players got off have been a very good thing. Before that break, there were a lot of players who were exhausted and needed four or five days off to spend time with their families and switch off from football. But when you are a professional, after four or five days off you need the ball. That’s what I saw at training, and it’s a good sign.”
Bafana will fly to Ivory Coast on Wednesday, playing just one training match against Lesotho after SAFA failed to organise tougher opponents for the team to sharpen its skills with before the continental tournament.
Leading up to the Afcon, Bafana played friendlies against Ivory Coast away, Namibia (who are in the same group), the Democratic Republic of Congo and Eswatini.
They will start their Afcon campaign on 16 January against Mali. Five days later they will take on Namibia, before ending their group stage campaign against Tunisia on 24 January. The top two teams of each of the six groups will automatically qualify for the last 16, along with four best third-placed finishers.
Bafana’s loss to Rwanda in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers might have ended an unbeaten run that stretched over a year, but the team is among the dark horses for the continent – with the core group coming from Mamelodi Sundowns, who recently conquered the continent by winning the African Football League.
In Broos, Bafana have a coach who has tasted being an African champion. The Belgian guided Cameroon to glory in Gabon in 2017.
“It’s still, for me, a special experience,” he said.
“Certainly. winning a big tournament [is great], but winning it in Africa [is more special]. It was a totally different mentality that I had to learn. It was a fantastic experience winning the Afcon. If you ask me: ‘Do you want to do it again?’ Surely, I want to do it again. I am looking forward to the game, the atmosphere around the games and the tournament.
“You see, everyone wants to show how good they are, they are motivated and that makes it a very tough tournament. It not only needs you to be mentally at the top, but you also need quality. We will see our quality at the highest level.”