‘Too old’ South African Zwane too good for Namibia in Afcon

Namibia’s midfielder #10 Prins Tjiueza fights for the ball with South Africa’s defender #14 Mothobi Mvala during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group E football match between South Africa and Namibia at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on January 21, 2024. AFP

Themba Zwane, a 34-year-old once deemed too old for international football, scored twice as South Africa trounced Namibia 4-0 on Sunday to get their Africa Cup of Nations campaign back on track.

A loss to Mali five days ago meant this was a must-win match for Bafana Bafana (the Boys) and they roared into a three-goal lead by half-time with Zwane netting twice.

When Belgian Hugo Broos became coach after South Africa failed to qualify for the last Cup of Nations, he said the team was “too old” and used Zwane as an example.

But consistently good performances by Zwane for his club, Mamelodi Sundowns, forced the coach to change his mind.

After Percy Tau converted a penalty, Zwane bagged his brace and Thapelo Maseko netted in the second half as South Africa achieved their biggest winning margin in the competition.

Mali top the table with four points, South Africa and Namibia have three each and Tunisia one ahead of the final group matches on Wednesday.

Thapelo Morena, promoted to the South Africa starting line-up after coming off the bench in the loss to Mali, troubled Namibia from the start with his runs down the right.

From one, Namibian Riaan Hanamub handled inside the area and, after viewing the incident at the pitchside VAR monitor, the referee pointed to the spot.

Tau, heavily criticised after blazing a spot kick wide against Mali, redeemed himself with a superbly struck low penalty past Lloyd Kazapua into the corner of the net on 14 minutes.

Relief was etched on the face of Tau, who plays for Egyptian and African giants Al Ahly, as he ran back to the South African half, and Namibia seemed despondent at falling behind so early.

Then, the Zwane show began at the 20,000-seat stadium in the most northern of five cities in the Ivory Coast hosting Cup of Nations matches.

Morena once again featured prominently as his cross was met perfectly by Zwane and the ball flew past Kazapua to give Bafana a two-goal advantage with 25 minutes gone.

Portugal-based Sphephelo Sithole, who with Tau were the only starters who do not play for South African clubs, wasted a great chance to score when his header hit the ground and flew over.

His miss was soon forgotten, however, as Zwane struck again for a 3-0 lead. He raced toward goal from the left and fired across Kazapua and into the far corner of the net.

South Africa were dominant and Kazapua did well to tip a Morena shot just over the crossbar as half-time loomed.

Broos, a 2017 Cup of Nations title winner with Cameroon, felt sufficiently confident of victory that he took off Zwane midway through the second half.

His replacement, Maseko, did not take long to make an impact as he sprinted to control a long pass and although Kazapua got a hand to his shot, he could not prevent it entering the net.

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