World Cup beckons for Bafana Bafana: Doc Khumalo

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Bafana Bafana legend Doctor Khumalo believes that the South African senior national football team can qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

The team performed beyond expectations by finishing third at the recent 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Ivory Coast. Bafana, who have earned a medal for the first time since 2000, have also improved their positions on the CAF and FIFA rankings after their exploits.

Bafana Bafana have not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 2002 in Japan and South Korea. The team did take part in the global showpiece in 2010 but by virtue of being the host country. Following their third-place finish in the recent AFCON tournament in Ivory Coast, Bafana legend Doctor Khumalo believes they can also qualify for the global showpiece.

“For them to qualify let’s not dismantle it, it’s not yet broken so let’s give Hugo support. Helman and the background staff and the boys, let’s allow them to continue the way they did in Ivory Coast. I would like to believe that Nigeria is in our group but from what I have seen in Ivory Coast, I can bet all my money that SA can overcome that obstacle,”

South Africa were crowned champions in 1996 and also managed to achieve a silver medal in 1998, and bronze in 2000. But since then, it’s been a downward spiral for Bafana.

“We didn’t have a continuation more than 80% of the 1996 legends were eliminated from the team that’s one of the reason why coach Clive Barker had to resign unexpectedly and I think that’s one of the main reason why we suffered for 28 years. We don’t want to experience the same situation, continue with the same players, rope in the youngsters but make sure that the likes of experienced players are still part of the team,” Khumalo added.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) appointed Technical Director Walter Steenbok two years ago. Khumalo says that was a step in the right direction to sustain continuity.

“When SAFA appointed technical director Walter Steenbok, I have worked with him, this is a right direction because he knows what is needed in terms of SAFA. For us to have the continuation of players and the technical team,”

Bafana comprised of largely locally based players with only three players plying their trade abroad. Khumalo says there are so many players who are currently based in Europe who can add value to the team going forward.

“We have more than 80 players that are outside SA in Europe that are still young. We just hear about them when they have done something, we don’t have people that go out there and assess their performance and if they are eligible to play for the national team.”

The Bafana Bafana legend also believes that many players will be signed by teams abroad after their heroics at the AFCON.

Video: Soccer legend Doctor Khumalo backs Bafana to qualify for FIFA World Cup