Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos claimed that having the fans inside the FNB Stadium for the first time helped his team through moments of suffering in their 1-0 Fifa World Cup qualifier victory over Ethiopia on Tuesday evening.
Bafana reclaimed the top spot in the group after Ghana had earlier beaten Zimbabwe 1-0 in Harare, but the home team were made to sweat all the way for the three points.
It was clear that the trip to Ethiopia over the weekend, where Bafana managed a 3-1 victory, had taken its toll on the players. Despite Broos making a couple of changes in the midfield in a bid to bring in fresh legs, the Ethiopians controlled large passages of play and possession.
However, with 2000 vaccinated spectators allowed inside a sports stadium for the first time in South African since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country back in March, Bafana were not going to let their fans return home disappointed with a character-filled display.
“We had an awful trip last week to Ethiopia, but what the boys did there in Ethiopia in terms of character and mentality was fantastic. We tried it today also, but the trip was in the legs of the boys and we saw it. We were not fresh. We did not neutralise the midfield, but I can’t blame them for the way they fought for 90 minutes and they wanted that victory, I have to congratulate them,” Broos told reporters post-match.
“The fans … we really hope that for the next game against Zimbabwe we can see even more fans because in games like this when we are suffering, then you have the fans behind you, that gives you energy. Let’s hope that today we had 2000, maybe next time we have 10 times more. It should be fantastic.”
Although Bafana were made to chase the Ethiopians for the majority of the evening, they managed to claim the all-important three points that keeps their destiny firmly in their own hands with two games remaining against Zimbabwe (home) and Ghana (away).
Although the performance lacked the energy that was on display in Ethiopia, the defensive structure was much better at FNB Stadium as Bafana kept yet another clean sheet.
“We gave them too much freedom in the midfield. They are all good players. My colleague had a fantastic midfield. All the players can keep the ball and give passes. We tried to put pressure on them but we couldn’t succeed and that’s why we suffered throughout the game,” the Belgian said.
“But we had a clean sheet and that’s very important because before the game starts we already have one point. And maybe if you can score, you win the game like we did today. We can keep a clean sheet and that’s a very good quality. In Ethiopia, we could count on Rowen (Williams), he had two fantastic saves, otherwise, we were not in the match anymore at that moment, but he did it. Today the defence was good and there were not so many chances. Our defence was very strong.”