Relentless Bafana Bafana slay Zimbabwe’s Warriors

Khuliso Mudau of South Africa tries to go around Zimbabwe’s Rinomhota Andrew Farah during their Fifa World Cup 2026 qualifier at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein last night. | Backpagepix

Khuliso Mudau of South Africa tries to go around Zimbabwe’s Rinomhota Andrew Farah during their Fifa World Cup 2026 qualifier at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein last night. | Backpagepix

Published Jun 11, 2024




Rayners 1’, Morena 55’, 78’


Chirewa 2’

Thapelo Morena continued to endear himself to the people of Bloemfontein after scoring a brace to help Bafana Bafana beat Zimbabwe last night.

Morena, who started his football career at Bloemfontein Celtic, scored a second-half brace after coming from the bench, as Bafana beat Zimbabwe 3-1. It was an impressive win that didn’t only feed the people of Bloemfontein, who’ve been starved of football since the sale of Celtic, but revived Bafana’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

Bafana are now second in Group C of the group stage qualifiers with seven points, level with log leaders Rwanda, who beat Lesotho 1-0 in a simultaneous kick-off. This victory also meant a great deal to Bafana coach Hugo Broos who claimed that if they win all their home games they should qualify for the finals in the US, Canada and Mexico.

Bafana’s win last night didn’t only come at an iconic venue, but on the same day the country celebrated Siphiwe Tshabalala’s opening goal in the 2010 World Cup on home soil.

The Free State Stadium is not only home to the most passionate football fans – which was affirmed by the nearly sold-out crowd – but Bafana also hold dear memories of the venue. This was the same ground where Bafana won their only group stage game – against France – in the 2010 global showpiece.

Bafana recreated those sweet memories, almost taking a leaf from that win 14 years ago, as they burst into life as early as the first minute.

Munashe Garananga failed to control the ball close to his 18-yard area, giving Iqraam Rayners a gift that the Stellenbosch man duly accepted, slotting past Goefrey Chitsumba.

Bafana’s joy was short-lived, though, as Tawanda Chirewa danced his way into the Bafana box, leaving Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole for dust, before slotting past Ronwen Williams.

That goal stunned the venue, making it more like a burial site than the electric party that was started by the cheering crowd before kick-off.

Oswin Appolis did his best to revive the euphoric atmosphere as he mesmerised the Warriors, proving why he deserved to replace the injured and under pressure Percy Tau. Appollis had a shot saved by Chitsuma in the 19th minute as he continued to pile the pressure on the Warriors defence.

However, he couldn’t do everything on his own, with the lack of a No 9 such as Lyle Foster, who was benched again after his return to the team, noticeable.

Foster was in meditative mood just before the start, cutting a lone figure on the pitch long after his teammates returned to the dressing room after the pitch inspection.

Rayners had a glorious chance to grab a first-half brace, having benefitted from Appollis’s cross, but he failed to get his footing right as his shot sailed wide.

Chirewa nearly punished Rayners’ wastefulness as he turned gloriously inside the box on the stroke of half-time, only to send his curling effort past a high-flying Williams in goal.

Referee Mohamed Mansour continued to be Hugo Broos’ worst enemy in the second half, the Bafana coach throwing a tantrum on the touchline whenever the Egyptian ruled against his team.

Broos’ nerves would soon be calmed as the hard work of Appolis finally paid off when he put in a cross which Chitsumba parried into the path of half-time substitute Morena, who tapped home.

Morena, who’s from Bloem, got a standing ovation befitting a player who continues to put the town on the map.

Morena ensured that the win was wrapped up for the national team as he rounded Chitsumba in the 77th minute, after beating the offside trap, to tap into an empty net and send the stadium into a frenzy.

Bafana’s next World Cup qualifiers (all next year)

March 17: v Lesotho

March 25: v Benin

September: v Lesotho

September 8: v Nigeria

October 6: v Zimbabwe

October 13: v Rwanda

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