Bafana’s most goals mythical
There has been no end of specially taken goals for South Africa in 395 matches since 1992, even if the national team these days disappoints far more than it delights. From David Nyathi’s rasping drive against Morocco in the suburbs of Ouagadougou, Thabo Mngomeni’s bicycle-kick - against Congo in Point Noir to Thabo Matlaba’s stunner against the Central African Republic in World Cup qualification in Cape Town, everyone has their Bafana favourite. But which have been the most mythical goals for the national side – those that have marked major milestones, landmarks and news events in the 29-year history of the national team? KICK OFF’s Mark Gleeson picks the top 10.
10 Thulani Hlatshwayo v Senegal 2-1, Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, November 12, 2016
At the time it seemed a gift penalty from Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey when Senegal’s much vaunted defender Kalidou Koulibaly was alleged to have handled the ball.
At first sight, and then confirmed by television replays, it was some way from his hand, striking much lower down against Koulibaly’s knee. But Thulani Hlatshwayo tucked away the spot-kick for the lead in the World Cup qualifier and then Thulani Serero made it 2-0 just minutes later.
Bafana went on to win the game 2-1 with Senegal understandably angered afterwards, but how many timestim have we seen losing coaches blame defeat on refereeing decision? This time, however, Senegal fury was more than justified.
First the Confederation of AAfrican Football banned Lamptey for three months for a poor performance but then it emerged he had been paid by bookmakers to cheat and FIFA handed him a life ban, which he appealed.
When the ban was upheld, the Bafana victory was annulled and the game replay. Senegal won the replayed game to book their World Cup plaice in Russia while South Africa’s image was sullied, even if not by implication but association.
9 Hlompho Kekana v Cameroon 2-2, Limbe, June 23, 2016
Nominated for FIFA’s Puskas award, there is no doubt Hlompho Kekana’ goal against Cameroon at their new stadium in Limbe is Bafana’s best-ever goal, not only for the distance and power, but the pure audacity.
Kekana had previous with long range efforts but this was one few in world football could ever hope to replicate. It was the 50th minute against the Indomitable Lions, with the scores at 1-1, when Kekana
pressed his opponent into turning over possession and without hesitation, barely looking up, and still well inside his own half, he hit the ball into the back of the net, setting off on furious celebrations that saw him almost collide with the television cameras.
“I always checked how the goalkeepers left their lines when the opposition is attacking ... after we dispossessed Cameroon, I looked up and saw the keeper well off his line and I took a chance – thankfully, it went in,” Kekana remembers.
“I was excited because I’d been trying to score such goals at my club, but could not. But when the goal comes in a match against a team the calibre of Cameroon, it always brings joy – and not only to me but to my teammates and the entire country.”
8 Thembinkosi Lorch v Egypt 1-0, Cairo, July 6, 2019
With an expanded field of 24 teams, South Africa were beneficiaries of generously easy path out of the group stage of the 2019 Cup of Nations finals in Egypt. They lost two of three group games yet still advanced to the Last 16 on the back of a far-from-convincing win over Namibia.
Up against the hosts in knockout round, South Africa were given little chance but in front of 75,000 at the Cairo International Stadium proved massive party poopers. Egypt admittedly were nervous and feeling a burden of expectation but had their chances to win.
But they were caught in a classic Stuart Baxter tactic as the swift counterattack, or ‘transition’ as the Englishman liked to call it, won the day for South Africa.
With 85 minutes gone, a throw-in deep in the Bafana half was taken by, and then played back to, Percy Tau, who played it to Lorch on the halfway line. He fed it back to Bongani Zungu, who swept it wide to Lebo Mothiba on the right.
Egypt’s defence was caught cold and only Ahmed Hegazi was back. Mothiba’s slip pass evaded him and found the on-rushing Lorch for a cool-as-you-like finish. Cairo went quiet as the hosts tumbled out of the tournament.
7 Katlego Mphela v Spain 2-3, Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, June 28, 2009
Participating in the 2009 Confederation Cup as future World Cup hosts, South Africa was experiencing heady days. The country was a giant construction site in preparation for the 2010 tournament with the focus all on Mzansi, the new centre of the footballing universe. Bafana had been gifted a soft draw in Group A, paired with Iraq, New Zealand and Spain. But they nearly botched it by drawing with Iraq and then edging New Zealand 2-0 to finish second behind Spain in the group after losing 2-0 to La Furia Roja in Bloemfontein.
That meant a semi-final meeting with Brazil, which was heartbreakingly lost in the dying minutes to a Dani Alves free-kick, setting up a repeat meeting against Spain for the bronze medal after the United States had shocked the European champions in their semi.
Mphela had Bafana ahead in the 73rd minute and an upset looked on the cards until Dani Guiza netted twice in the final two minutes to turn the game on its head.
South Africa’s last chance to go into extra time rested on a freekick, awarded a considerable distance from goal. Mphela ran up and thumped the ball with extraordinary power to leave Iker Casillas with no chance for a gem of goal.
But Spain still won it in extra time, thanks to Xabi Alonso.
6 Benni Mccarthy v Denmark 1-1, Toulouse, France, June 18, 1996
A first ever goal in the World Cup finals in a landmark for any footballing nation and after an embarrassing 3-0 pasting from hosts France in the opening Group C match, Bafana were looking in some distress and it got even worse after just 12 minutes in Toulouse as Allan Nielsen had Denmark ahead, scoring unmarked at the back post. Another thumping loomed.
But Bafana fought back bravely with the best of Mzansi ability on display. John Moshoeu somehow carved his way through three Danish midfielders, fed to Shaun Bartlett, who had his back to goal on the edge of the box. It was an instinctive touch inside from Bartlett to McCarthy, whose pace got him ahead of three defenders surrounding him.
He was virtually on top of Peter Schmeichel when he fired off his left foot, the ball squeezing through the legs of the giant Danish ‘keeper.
For Benni, it was a special goal score, arguably his favourite of his record 31 for the country, against one of his heroes. He was a big Manchester United fan and once he emerged from a huddle of celebratory players, his beaming smile betrayed his utter delight.
5 Doctor Khumalo v Cameroon 1-0, King’s Park, Durban, July 7, 1992
The first ever Bafana goal was a soft penalty given late in the game by a generous referee on a damp night when the first Bafana game hardly attracted a crowd in rain-sodden Durban and television cameras were absent because of a strike at the SABC.
But it remains THE first goal and therefore has its place in the history of the national team. Amid the excitement of the firstever international and somewhat chaotic preparations, there had been no decision taken on who would take a penalty should one be awarded.
But captain Neil Tovey was emphatic that Khumalo take it. “No one seemed willing so I went up to Doctor and instructed him to take it. I knew he was the kind of player who
would rise to the occasion.” Khumalo stroked it emphatically.
“I celebrated more out of relief than anything else‚“he recalled. “Even after the game‚ it was just another penalty scored and I was relieved that I had not missed! But then the next day or the day afterwards someone said to me‚ ‘man‚ what does it feel like to make history’ and it was only then that I really thought about it and the significance of that goal to South Africa and to me.”
4 Tokelo Rantie v Nigeria 2-0, Uyo, June 10, 2017
The Super Eagles had long been the nemesis of Bafana Bafana, handing them several harsh lessons in competitive matches over the preceding two decades.
Among those that stuck in the throat were the 4-0 hiding in the World Cup qualifiers in 1992 and a similar scoreline at the 2004 Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia.
The match at the swanky new Godswill Akpabio International Stadium proved one of the best ever played by the national team. It was the beginning of the 2019 African Cup of Nations with Stuart Baxter as coach and having missed out on the 2017 finals in Gabon, it was imperative to get off to a good start.
Bafana were just superb that day and could easily have won by a lot more. Themba Zwane had already hit the upright in the first half and soon into the second was involved in the build-up as Rantie headed home from close range after a pin-point cross from Ramahlwe Mphahlele.
“The most satisfactory performance I’ve had at national level, because it was in the back yard of a team we could never beat,” purred Baxter afterwards.
3 Phil Masinga v Congo 1-0, Soccer City, August 16, 1997
A nervy day with arguably the most passionate crowd South Africa ever had behind it, anticipating the points needed to secure a place at the World Cup finals for the first time.
Bafana need to avoid defeat while Congo had to win and they came with a fighting mentality to the game. South Africa needed a goal to settle the collective anxiety and, when it came in the 14th minute, proved to be not only significant but also spectacular.
Doctor Khumalo stole possession in midfield and set away Phil Masinga, who steadied himself a few paces from the edge of the penalty area and then unleashed a cracking shot that Congo keeper Brice Samba did not even see.
It was described the next day as an ‘Exocet missile’ and came as fitting riposte of supporters who had been jeering Masinga in previous matches. Masinga, who passed away two years ago, describe it such before his death.
“Before the match I said to someone, ‘you know what? I’m going to score the goal to take us to our first World Cup. When I score that goal, I’ll turn around and show my name as the man the supporters have been booing’.”
2 Mark Williams v Tunisia 2-0, Soccer City, February 3, 1996
Two goals in the space of three minutes turned the substitute striker into ‘the nation builder’ as South Africa won the Africa Cup of Nations.
A quarter-century on, the victory remains the only major tournament success and is becoming more and more eulogised with each subsequent failure.
We chose the first as the more important of the two. Doctor Khumalo knocked in a free-kick, which Mark Fish, rummaging forward from defence, flick on with a backheader and sneaking around the back post was Eric Tinkler, whose header was stopped by Tunisia goalkeeper Chokri El Ouaer the post.
It bounced out to Sizwe Motaung, who flicked the ball back into the danger zone, high in the air for Williams to power home with his head from close range. The goal hero had been disappointed to start on the bench but schemed with the crowd to get on.
“While sitting on the bench, I moved towards the end of it and poked my head out so that the crowd could see me. They started chanting ‘Free Willy, Free Willy’, and eventually I stood up and warmed up even before [coach] Clive [Barker] told me to.”
1 Siphiwe Tshabalala v Mexico 1-1, Soccer City, June 11, 2010
Although the match ended in a draw, and the tournament was hardly fruitful for South Africa’s national team, there is no doubt it was the finest hour in the country’s sporting history: the opening of the 2010 World Cup.
And it got a lot better in the 54th minute as Mexico turned over possession, Reneilwe Letsholonyane played a little ball inside and after a quick one-two, Kagisho Dikgacoi swept it out to Tshabalala and a left footed scorcher become immortalised.
“I actually thought at first about lobbing or chipping it because the keeper was off his line,” Tshabalala has since admitted. “Thankfully I thought twice and decided for power instead. And as I was about to hit it, the ball took a very slight bounce off the ground. That helped, I think, and the connection was so good that as soon as the ball left my foot I knew it was going in.
“I’ll always love it – it’s beautiful – but the goal is bigger than me as an individual. That goal was special at the time, it’s special today and, for me and a lot of other people, it will be special forever.”