Legendary South African midfielder Helman Mkhalele believes his nation did not attack Nigeria enough.
Bafana Bafana were eliminated from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after losing 2-1 to the Super Eagles in a quarter-final match at Cairo International Stadium on Wednesday night.
“I think we didn’t take the fighting spirit we showed when we defeated Egypt to the clash against Nigeria,” Mkhalele told Goal.
“We attacked Egypt from the first whistle and we saw that we were on top of our game. We pressed Egypt higher and we failed to do that last night.
“I think the attitude to win the game against Nigeria was not there and I feel with our display, we lacked confidence and that’s basically how we lost the game,” he lamented.
‘Midnight Express’ has lamented the lapse of concentration as the Super Eagles netted a winner in the 89th minute with Bafana goalkeeper Ronwen Williams failing to punch away the corner-kick.
“I think we were focusing on going to extra-time and the guys lost concentration. It was a critical phase or moment in the game and we conceded,” continued the legend.
“Even though we conceded from a set piece against Morocco in our last game, we have actually done very well in defending corner kicks throughout the tournaments,” reflected the former midfielder.
Meanwhile, the former Orlando Pirates winger reflected on the rivalry between the two nations, explaining that the 2-0 win in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers pushed the West Africans to seek revenge.
“Yeah, I think both teams knew what was at stake and you will know Nigeria has always argued that they would have beaten us in 1996 if they played at the tournament,” he said.
“There is that rivalry between the two countries and that also played [a part] last night. South Africa is yet to beat Nigeria in the tournament and they knew that they had to protect that. I also think Nigeria played well because you could see their game was different from the one they played against Cameroon and they wanted it more than us,” he noted.
When asked the way forward for the 1996 African champions, Mkhalele has urged the supporters to rally behind the team.
“I think what we need to do now is to sit down, analyse and reflect, ask the right questions like where did we go wrong and look at solutions to improve,” urged Mkhalele.
“We need to have a better approach for our next quest including the next World Cup. You will remember we have never qualified for major tournaments in a very long time.
“There were expectations after reaching Afcon and we just need to gather the facts now and address the issues in detail. You will also recall that there was an outcry that we did not attack during the group stages and we must look at the causes of that.
“At this stage, there is no room for pointing fingers at the technical team or the playing personnel, but to sit down and critically try to find the solutions because we have the talent there is no doubt about that,” the former Jomo Cosmos winger added.
“People said the team did not attack in the opening games, but we attacked Egypt, then we need to know why did we not attack Nigeria. These are the questions we must address.
“Some calls were made that Lebo Mothiba was not good enough, he didn’t score, but we must ask ourselves now why he did not score. Did he get the right supply, was he supported? Just like Percy Tau, he played and his game had ups and downs and we must try to find these solutions going forward,” he said.
“I mean you cannot blame a striker for not scoring goals when there was no supply, the supply must come from the midfield and we must find all the solutions pertaining to our game and performances at Afcon.
“I understand we are a country that has demands and expectations but I would like us to find solutions and improve. We have the right players and we must not take the exit or our performance emotionally,” he concluded.