Finalists or not, we must admit that not many of us expected South Africa to perform at the level they have in the Africa Cup of Nations, which has reached a boiling point with the approaching quarterfinals over the weekend.

Bafana Bafana had not been in a great run of form going into this year’s AFCON, having won only one of their five matches prior. Although they had a fairly decent AFCON qualifying campaign, South Africa’s string of performances shortly before the tournament raised questions about the team’s readiness for such a competition. The PSL’s refusal to pause the league earlier, so Hugo Broos could prepare his charges, was a cause for concern. The coach went into detail about the difficulties he has faced, and many took this as ‘excuses,’ with some even suggesting he’s ready to jump ship. Even respected sportscaster, Rober Marawa, was very quick to turn on Broos, with a post that has come back to bite him. Marawa stopped short of suggesting we SAFA should go all out to get Herve Renard, and he’s been reminded of this with every solid performance by Bafana.

Bafana has responded emphatically, finishing second in their group and knocking out Africa’s number one ranked side, Morocco, to earn a place in the quarterfinals this weekend. What must have made the victory more satisfying for Broos is the fact that the opening goal was scored by Evidence Makgopa, whose inclusion in the squad was met with a lot of criticism. Makgopa has delivered in his role upfront, linking up play well with central attacking midfielder Themba Zwane and wide players Percy Tau and Thapelo Morena. He now has a big goal, which will boost his confidence.

South Africa takes on another high-flying side in Cape Verde on Saturday evening, and there is an air of optimism as the tournament has been blown wide open by the incredible elimination of all the top 5 ranked African teams in the early stages. This surely sets the stage for an interesting quarterfinal round this weekend.

Junior Khanye and co should expect more humble pie.