South Africa opens World Cup qualifying with 2-1 win over Benin

AP , Saturday 18 Nov 2023

South Africa started its World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-1 home win against Benin on Saturday to take the early lead in Group C.

South Africa
South Africa defeated Benin 2-1 in Africa 2026 World Cup qualifier. Photo: South African national football team's official X account.


Percy Tau put the host ahead in the second minute following a swift interchange of passes, and South Africa doubled its lead at the Moses Mabhidha Stadium when Khuliso Mudau finished from close range on the stroke of halftime after Benin failed to clear the ball.

Benin captain Steve Mounié reduced the deficit in the 69th by coolly slotting the ball past South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams from inside the box.

The other four teams in Group C all drew their opening games, including Nigeria being held to a surprising 1-1 stalemate at home against Lesotho on Thursday.

South Africa hasn’t appeared at a World Cup since hosting the 2010 edition, and last qualified for the tournament in 2002.

South Africa coach Hugo Broos, a 71-year-old Belgian, now has the task of taking Bafana Bafana back to the showcase tournament in a sport where the country has repeatedly underperformed — especially in contrast to South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup title last month and reaching the semifinals of the current Cricket World Cup in India.

But with the football World Cup expanding to 48 teams in 2026, South Africa has a better chance of qualifying for the tournament in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Nine teams from Africa will qualify directly, and a 10th team could make the field through an inter-continental playoff.

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