South Africa leaves Ivory Coast with bronze in their suitcases. This Saturday, February 10, Bafana Bafana resisted well and held back against the DRC, before punishing the Leopards on penalties (0-0, 6-5 tab). Ronwen Williams was once again decisive in this exercise to allow his team to win in this small final.
From our special correspondent in Abidjan,
In a match played at a slow pace, but not stingy with opportunities, fate smiled on the South Africans who did not have measured joy at the end of the small final of this CAN. But the Leopards can only blame themselves, as they could have made the difference on several occasions. Especially through Silas Katompa. The Stuttgart striker was indeed the most prominent player among the Leopards, with opportunities, and especially misses. Like in this face-to-face lost in front of Ronwen Williams (9th), or this strike on the small outside net when the South African goalkeeper had deserted his goal (65th).
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In this meeting, Desabre’s men seemed more leggy than those of Hugo Broos. They who played two overtimes in a row, in the quarter and semi-final. The Belgian technician had decided to return to his beloved 4-4-2 after abandoning it against Nigeria in the previous round. However, his team, known for the intensity of its matches, had difficulties at the Félix-Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan where the temperature (30°) and humidity (82%) were no allies for play a good game.
Despite everything, Teboho Mokoena still held the South African midfielder, setting the tempo and being at the origin of most of Bafana Bafana’s attacks. It was on one of his openings that Makgopa got South Africa’s best chance in the first half with a shot that didn’t go far off target (19th).
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We had to wait until the last minutes to see Hugo Bross’ men ruffle the hackles of the Leopards again. Mayambela, after a very good South African movement, tried to place his ball in a tight angle, but the Congolese goalkeeper had closed his goal well (85th).
Fiston Mayele (90th) and Yoan Wissa (90+3) had the match ball at their feet, but like most of his teammates in attack, they will see their attempts doomed to failure. The bronze medal was therefore decided on penalties, since the match for third place does not provide for extra time. In this exercise, it was South Africa who cracked first with Teboho Mokoena who saw his shot end on the post.
But Rowen Williams, imperious in the quarter-final and author of no saves in the semi-finals, saved his team by stopping Chancel Mbemba’s fifth Congolese shot. The Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper will ultimately be the hero of this classification match by winning his final duel against Elia Meschak.
South Africa is back on the CAN podium, 24 years after finishing third during CAN 2000. A very good run for Bafana Bafana that no one expected at this level.