Safa, Mbalula praise Bafana
The South African football team was lauded on Sunday by government and the SA Football Association (Safa) after Bafana Bafana reached the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals for the first time in 11 years.
Bafana drew 2-2 against Morocco in Durban to finish top of Group A, booking their place in the playoffs of the continental tournament for the first time since the 2002 showpiece in Mali.
"Thank you South Africa for your unwavering support for the national team," sports minister Fikile Mbalula said in a statement.
"We won the battle, now we must win the war. Bafana players are true soldiers indeed."
Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said the team had 'brought pride and honour' to the host nation.
“You have written a piece of history for yourselves, families and friends," Nematandani said.
South Africa fought back twice to equalise against the Moroccans, with May Mahlangu and Siyabonga Sangweni finding the back of the net to ensure their progress in the competition.
"You deserve to walk tall. You showed the entire football world that you have the fighting spirit and that the adage ‘it is never over until the fat lady sings' is a true expression of competitive soccer games," Nematandani.
He hoped the host team would go on to reach the final.
“We are confident that this achievement will now spur you to go all the way in this tournament.
"The entire country is behind you; their support and spirit will carry you all the way."
Bafana face the Group B runners-up, to be decided on Monday evening, in their quarterfinal match at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.