Today marks the 20-year anniversary of Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 group stage victory over Angola at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations. South Africa started the tournament in spectacular fashion a week earlier with a crushing 3-0 beating of continental powerhouse Cameroon at the FNB Stadium. Clive Barker’s charges were back at the same venue to face Palancas Negras and here, SA goalscoring ace Phil Masinga recalls the fixture against the Angolans.
Masinga says the players all knew that Cameroon was highly ranked on the continent and it was a tough fixture but after beating them in the tournament’s opening match it boosted the confidence of all the players. The 46-year-old says: ‘So we played against Angola with great confidence.’ He mentions how big the pressure was on the home team as they were carrying the hopes of the whole nation.
The former Leeds United and Bari striker says: ‘It was a tough game, a very close encounter, but it was important for us to win that second game of our group as it was going to secure us a place in the second round of the tournament.’ That is exactly what the host nation went ahead and did thanks to a Mark Williams goal in the 57th minute qualification for the knockout stage was secured.
Masinga actually scored the first goal of the tournament after 15 minutes against the Indomitable Lions. Williams and the late John Moshoeu finished the west Africans off in the opening match. Masinga says coach Barker and then-President Nelson Mandela played key roles in Bafana Bafana’s victory. Barker was their biggest motivator and Mandela’s visits played an important part too, according to Masinga.
The win over the Angolans was enough to send South Africa into the knockout stage and Masinga says: ‘We were very excited after that 1-0 win against Angola. Despite having one more match to play, we knew we had automatically qualified to proceed to the next round.’
Photo credit: Nick Lourens