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Hugo Broos credits his assistant coach for helping him assemble a youthful side

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Hugo Broos, the coach of South Africa’s men’s national team, has turned to youthful players to drive a revival of the squad, which he hopes would propel Bafana Bafana back to the top of African football.

A young Bafana Bafana are on the verge of surprisingly making the last round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers, before of vital meetings with Zimbabwe and Ghana this week.

Bafana Bafana will play Zimbabwe in Johannesburg on Thursday, but the decisive match against the Black Stars on Sunday at Ghana’s Cape Coast Sports Stadium will likely determine who makes the playoffs.

Broos highlighted his reasoning for benching established players in favor of inexperienced ones, stating that he wanted his team to have a desire that he thought was lacking under the previous coach.

“I saw the game against Sudan and Bafana Bafana needed only one point, and when I see the way they played the game there in Sudan… I couldn’t understand it. You go until the end — until you die — but you need that point. This was not the mentality I saw,” Broos told ESPN.

“So then I started to see who was playing. There were so many players of 27, 28, 29 years old. Afterwards, there was someone who was telling me: ‘Yes, coach, but those players are experienced.’

“I said: ‘Yes, that’s right, but if you do not play the younger players, then when are they going to have experience?’

“So, therefore, I started also with young players who had quality. This is the first thing they need to have and that’s why we have such good results.”

Broos, who credits assistant coach Helman Mkhalele with assisting him in understanding the local context, not only relied on youthful players, but also entrusted South African-based talents who had recently emerged from obscurity with the ultimate honor of starting for the national team.

However, Broos told ESPN that this did not mean that more experienced players were out of the squad. Indeed, he reintroduced Kaizer Chiefs winger Keagan Dolly, previously of Montpellier, to the team immediately after this interview.

“For my first selection, I did it maybe a little bit too strong, but I just wanted to find young players and I wanted to see what their ability was — what the quality was of those players, what the mentality was. I saw it was good,” Broos explained.

“They need to have the right mentality. Therefore, I think we will see in the next games — we will try still to improve that team, and if we need older players for that with quality, why not?

“I never said that the door was locked for older players, but I gave the chance to younger [players] first of all. After that, we will see, but for the moment, the youngsters do it well, so I think I made the right choice.”

Broos does not believe he is under imminent pressure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, which will feature only five African nations in Qatar. On the contrary, he goes out of his way to minimise risk.

“Ghana is Ghana, and Ghana is a very strong team. They qualify for nearly every World Cup. They qualify every AFCON. They have very good players who are playing in very good teams in Europe, so this is an advantage for them,” Broos said.

“We beat them here months ago in Jo’burg, but I’m aware of the fact that if we have to go to Ghana, even with one or two points ahead, that it will be very tough to win there or to qualify, because they are a very strong team and they have very good players, but we believe in it and we will see. In football, everything is possible.”

Broos is anxious for silverware in South Africa after winning the AFCON with Cameroon to go with his three Belgian top flight trophies (two with Club Brugge and one with Anderlecht).

“By the end of my contract, I want to win AFCON with South Africa. This is for sure. I went to Cameroon with the same mentality — I want to win. I have always been a coach who wanted to win, and if you see my CV, I have won a lot of things,” he said.

“With this mentality, even when I’m 69, I came to South Africa. I don’t want to be here for years and winning nothing. What do you have, to be five years in a country like South Africa to qualify for AFCON maybe and then after the first round, to go home? This is not my style.

“I want to win, so let’s hope in those five years that we can win AFCON — and it’s possible. Really, it’s possible.”

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