Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday declared South Africa's hosting of this year's Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament a major success.

"The Afcon tournament [up] to this point... we can announce that it has been a great success," Mbalula said in Johannesburg.

The group stages of the competition came to an end on Wednesday evening.

"Since the tournament took off, the attendance of games has improved. South Africans, as always, have been good hosts. There have been no signs of negativity from the fans."

Mbalula praised the country's ability to host another major sporting tournament, following the success of the 2010 Fifa World Cup on home soil.

South Africa has also previously hosted, among other major sporting events, the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

"I want to thank the SA Police Service and the various security forces for their efforts. To the fans from across the globe, it has been wonderful and great. What will pull fans to the stadium is flair, the beautiful game and the fact that the host nation is into the latter stages.

"The turnout has been good. Nobody can say in this country that they do not know that there is a big tournament in the country. The teams have fought hard to win; tears and celebrations have characterised this Afcon."

With Bafana Bafana through to the quarterfinals of the continental showpiece, Mbalula believed the national side would prove to be a difficult team to beat with the support of home fans.

The hosts face Mali in their last-eight clash in Durban on Saturday.

"We are not playing with small boys anymore. The quarterfinals brings added pressure and everybody knows that if we lose, we are out of the tournament.

"Mali will be a tough game, but the team (South Africa) have proved to us that we never back down from a challenge and I am confident that will continue."