South Africa embracing underdog tag ahead of SF



Veteran coach Hugo Broos might not have had a convincing run in charge of South Africa before the Africa Cup of Nations finals but when it comes to the tournament the 71-year-old Belgian is proving to have the Midas touch.

Former Belgium international Broos won the continental title with Cameroon in 2017, taking a side given little chance before the start all the way to the winners' podium and seven years later has led equally unfancied South Africa to the last four.

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They will be considerable underdogs when they face Nigeria in Bouake on Wednesday but Broos' team confounded the form book by eliminating Morocco in the round of 16 and then had the penalty shootout heroics of goalkeeper Ronwen Williams to thank for edging out the tiny Cape Verde in the quarterfinals.

Before the tournament Broos, who was handed a five-year contract in 2021, had won 11 of 22 games and, after initially only using players under 26 years old to rebuild the side, was forced to abandon those plans when the youngsters were not delivering.

But his Cup of Nations record is impressive even if the statistics belie some lucky escapes.

Hugo Broos watched the drama of penalty kicks unfold in South Africa's quarterfinal win against Cape Verde. Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images
Hugo Broos watched the drama of penalty kicks unfold in South Africa's quarterfinal win against Cape Verde. Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Cameroon reached the knockout stage in 2017 only after a brilliant last-gasp save by young goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa denied hosts Gabon the winner after they struck the post in the last minute.

Cameroon went on to edge Senegal in the quarterfinals on penalties and then beat Ghana and Egypt to win the title.

In the Ivory Coast over the last few weeks, South Africa have bounced back from an opening group loss to Mali to beat Namibia and draw with Tunisia to finish second in Group E.

After his team advanced to the semifinals, Broos' Cup of Nations record now reads five wins and five draws with a single loss in 11 games over the two editions.

South Africa were fortunate to see off Cape Verde on Saturday when Williams made an astonishing series of saves in the shootout.

After the match, Broos said: "Six hours ago I was 71 years old, now I am 75! It was a very stressful match, especially in a penalty shootout. But when you have a keeper who saves four penalties it's not luck. He was man of the match.

"Many people in South Africa didn't believe in this team but we believed, and the players believed in themselves. Reaching the semifinals is great for South African football which has struggled in recent years," he added.

Keywords: Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations AFCON

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