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Saturday, 18 November 2023 17:44

Bafana Bafana off to winning start in 2026 World Cup qualifiers after Benin victory.

Staff Reporter.

South Africa's quest to qualify for the 2026 World Cup got off to a winning start on Saturday afternoon, as they defeated Benin 2-1 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

A first Bafana Bafana goal in more than two years for Percy and a maiden strike for the national team from Khuliso Mudau saw Hugo Broos' side to victory, though it was a nervy final quarter in a game they otherwise dominated, thanks to Steve Mounie's goal for the Cheetahs.

South Africa got off to a flying start, with Percy Tau opening the scoring in the second minute. Aubrey Modiba and Sphephelo Sithole combined to tee up Tau, who managed to squeeze an effort beyond advancing goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe and into the back of the net.

The hosts went on to play some fine, flowing football but had to wait until the 33rd minute to test Allagbe again, with Tau twisting and turning in the penalty area before firing off a shot from a tight angle which the keeper palmed away at his near post.

Bafana Bafana deservedly claimed a second goal in injury time at the end of the first half, with Tau and Themba Zwane combining to open up the Benin defence, before a loose ball in the box was volleyed home at close range by Khuliso Mudau for 2-0 at the break.

South Africa lost their attacking rhythm after the restart and Benin were able to pull a goal back on a counter with 20 minutes of regulation time left to play.

Jodel Dossou's cross from the right picked out the unmarked Steve Mounie, who provided an accurate and efficient finish beyond goalkeeper Ronwen Williams to halve the deficit.

The Cheetahs were buoyed by their goal and went on to enjoy a spell of dominance, though South Africa gradually reasserted control through possession of the ball and were able to see out the match and secure a three-point haul which takes them to the top of group C (Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe are tied for second on one point each, with Benin on zero).

The teams will return to group C action on Tuesday 21 November, with South Africa visiting Rwanda in Butare, while Benin will face Lesotho in Durban.