Bafana Bafana triumph in Free State as Thapelo Morena’s double sinks Zimbabwe Warriors

Bafana Bafana’s Thapelo Morena celebrates after scoring against Zimbabwe. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

In a captivating turn of events, Thapelo Morena’s brace propelled Bafana Bafana to a crucial 3-1 victory over Zimbabwe, reigniting their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The match, played at the iconic Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, was a homecoming of sorts for Morena, who honed his skills at the local club, Bloemfontein Celtic, before joining the national team. The win didn’t just feed the football-starved fans of the city, but also revived Bafana’s hopes of securing a ticket to the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Bafana Bafana now find themselves in second place in Group C, level on points with leaders Rwanda, who defeated Lesotho 1-0 in a simultaneous fixture. The victory also held significant meaning for Bafana coach Hugo Broos, who expressed confidence that his team’s ability to win all their home games would pave the way for their qualification to the global showpiece.

The match was played on a significant day, as it coincided with the commemoration of Siphiwe Tshabalala’s iconic opening goal for Bafana Bafana in the 2010 World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa.

The Free State Stadium, known for its passionate fans, was nearly sold out, providing a fitting backdrop for Bafana’s inspiring performance. The national team holds cherished memories of the venue, having secured their only group stage victory against France during the 2010 World Cup.

Bafana Bafana wasted no time in asserting their dominance, with Iqraam Rayners capitalizing on a defensive lapse by Munashe Garan’anga to open the scoring in the opening minute. However, the visitors quickly responded, as Tawanda Chirewa’s skillful run and finish levelled the scores.

Oswin Appolis was the standout performer for the home side, showcasing his dribbling prowess and creating numerous opportunities, including a shot that was saved by Zimbabwe goalkeeper Godfrey Chitsumba. The absence of Lyle Foster, who was again on the bench after his recent return, was noticeable, as Bafana lacked a true target man.

Referee Mohamed Mansour’s decisions continued to frustrate Broos, but the Bafana coach’s nerves were soon calmed when Morena, who had come on as a halftime substitute, tapped home the rebound after Chitsumba parried Appolis’ cross.

The hometown hero sealed the victory in the 77th minute, rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net, sending the crowd into euphoria and further cementing his status as a local hero.

Bafana Bafana’s spirited performance and Morena’s decisive contribution have not only rekindled the nation’s World Cup dreams but also provided a much-needed boost to the football-loving community of Bloemfontein.

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