Cape Town - Lanky Bafana Bafana goalscorer Mothobi Mvala believes his team’s height advantage played a crucial role in their 3-1 Group G World Cup qualifying victory over Ethiopia.
Gaining success in African football often requires teams to possess an immense physical presence, especially when coming up against West African giants like Nigeria and Cameroon.
It is tactic that Mvala’s club Mamelodi Sundowns have routinely employed in their success on the continent, particularly when they won the Caf Champions League title in 2016 with the likes of Leonardo Castro, Hlompho Kekana, Tiyani Mabunda, Wayne Arendse, Thabo Nthethe, Soumahoro Bangaly and Tebogo Langerman in their squad.
Bafana have adopted a similar tactic with the likes of Mvala and his Sundowns teammate Rushine de Reuck adding a great physical presence to the national team.
Although Ethiopia are not one the biggest teams around, Bafana’s superior physical strength and height certainly came to the fore at the Bahir Dar Stadium, particularly as it led directly to Mvala’s goal.
“When we went into the changeroom at halftime, we changed the formation a little bit. We put (Ethan) Brooks just in front of me, and it worked for us. We managed them very well and that’s how we managed to get goals. I think our defending was very good. We knew we had height advantage at set-pieces and we used it wisely,” Mvala said.
“I think at that moment I was lucky. I don’t know what happened. During the first half I was going near-post from the throw-ins, and then in that moment, I just changed my mind because these guys are following me.
“Let me just stay at the back, and the ball came to me. The goalkeeper wanted to come in, but he went back to his post and the ball fell on to my feet and I was alone and I just put the ball into the back of the net.”
Meanwhile, fellow goalscorer Tebogho Mokoena was elated to open his Bafana goalscoring account with a long-range free kick and hoped to continue this form in the return match on Tuesday at the FNB Stadium.
“As a team we analysed Ethiopia and we knew where their weakest links were. I stepped up for that free kick because I knew what I was doing and I wanted to score. It went in!” Mokoena said.
“I’ve been waiting for that moment. I have always wanted to score for the national team. When that goal went in, I finally made it and I am hungry for more.
“I am sure my family is very happy and even the young kids because if they see someone from a small hometown like Bethlehem making it in South Africa at the top level, it is a motivation to them. It makes me work harder and hungry for the future.”
Bafana currently top Group G with seven points from three matches, but they are closely followed by Ghana on six points. The Black Stars, who suffered a surprise defeat to Bafana last month at FNB Stadium, returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory over Zimbabwe at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium.