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São Tomé e Príncipe v South Africa

Elegant and influential Zungu proves himself as key midfielder for Ntseki's Bafana Bafana

21:08 GMT 16/11/2020
Bongani Zungu, Bafana Bafana, November 2020
Goal explains why the 28-year-old player has vindicated his inclusion in the latest national team squad

Bongani Zungu's inclusion in the South Africa squad was a welcome sight for most Bafana Bafana fans.

Coach Molefi Ntseki had finally bowed to public pressure in calling up Zungu, who voiced his frustrations at being left out the national team squad for many months. 

Zungu was dropped from the squad and ignored by Ntseki soon after Bafana's 2-0 away defeat to Ghana in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Cape Coast in November 2019.

The Rangers FC midfielder was then omitted from the squad which was scheduled to face Sao Tome and Principe in back-to-back Afcon qualifiers in March 2020.

However, the matches were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and Bafana only returned to action in October 2020 with Ntseki having left Zungu out of the squad once again.

Calls for Zungu to be recalled to the national team gathered momentum after South Africa's disappointing results against Namibia and Zambia in friendly matches in Rustenburg last month.

Many started doubting Ntseki's ability to lead Bafana with his side having played with no real structure and team cohesion. 

Fresh from making his official debut for Scottish giants Rangers, Zungu was under the spotlight during the current international break.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns player was under pressure to vindicate his inclusion in the Bafana ahead of the two clashes against Sao Tome and Principe in Durban and Port Elizabeth.

Zungu was expected to start the first match after some withdrawals from the Bafana squad due to medical reasons. 

However, the Duduza-born player was named among the substitutes and he was thrown into the deep end when he was introduced as a substitute with South Africa being frustrated by Sao Tome's resolute defending.

However, his introduction six minutes after the hour-mark changed the complexion of the match at Moses Mabhida Stadium as he was able to play defence-splitting passes.

Zungu dictated the speed of play and the tempo of the match, while also being a threat in the box from aerial balls due to his height which saw him score late to seal a 2-0 victory.

Ntseki rewarded him with a start on Monday against the same opposition and Zungu did not disappoint as he combined brilliantly with his former Sundowns teammates Themba Zwane, Percy Tau and Keagan Dolly, and Lebogang Manyama.

Zungu was unlucky not to put his name on the score sheet for the second game running after being set-up by Tau with Sao Tome goalkeeper Aldair D'Almeida pulling off a great save to deny him

Zungu, who was Bafana's top scorer at the 2019 Afcon finals, offers something different from other central midfielders at Ntseki's disposal in the national team at the moment.

His good all-round abilities make him a top-quality box-to-box midfielder, who makes tackles and also carries the ball forward to either distribute it or score goals.

Boasting six goals from 31 international matches for Bafana, Zungu is also a great asset to have in Ntseki's side when it comes to defending aerial balls and also scoring from aerial balls in the opposition's box.

The two-time PSL title-winning midfield maestro's return to the Bafana fold has come at the right time with the team left with two crucial Afcon qualifiers against Ghana at home and Sudan away, both scheduled to be played in March 2021.

There is no reason for Ntseki not to include Zungu in the future Bafana squads as the influential player has proved his worth to the national team heading into the new year.