South Africa coach admits he'd rather not play AFCON third-place play-off after missing out on title

South Africa coach admits he'd rather not play AFCON third-place play-off after missing out on title

The right to finish third at the Africa Cup of Nations is not one that South Africa coach Hugo Broos will lose much sleep over.

Bafana Bafana face DR Congo in Abidjan on Saturday for a play-off game before the final between Nigeria and Ivory Coast a day later.

It was Nigeria who denied South Africa their first final in 24 years in a dramatic penalty shootout, after Broos’ side defied expectations to go deep into the competition.

“If you ask my advice, this game should not be played,” Belgian coach Broos, 71, said.

“The most important thing in a tournament like this is number one. If you are number three or number four tomorrow. For me it's exactly the same because this is only for specifics.

"Number one is important. Number one, they will always remember.”

He said of his team’s display in Ivory Coast: “We showed that we're a good team again. And when you're out of the final, after 120 minutes and penalties, it's always a big disappointment. Disappointment was for all of us, including the coach. This is a coach who is proud to be coach of that team. We did a very good job."

AFCON is not the only continental international tournament to host a third-place play-off, which features in the World Cup and Copa America but not the Gold Cup, Asian Cup or European Championships.

South Africa are setting their sights on reaching the 2026 World Cup after this positive showing, with a rematch against Nigeria coming up in their qualification group.

Broos, who won a hatful of title as a player with Anderlecht and Club Brugge, is set to lead the side having taken over just after Bafana Bafana were knocked out of qualifying for the last AFCON by Sudan.

A core of domestic-based players, particularly from league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, has been key to their success.

"It's something we can be really proud of, at least now we have some direction," defender Siyanda Xulu said. "We know where we're going. The coach kept reminding us how good we are as a team, as players, so it's just a matter of believing in that now and taking it to the next step."