Pretoria: Mali progressed to the semi-finals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after walloping Bafana Bafana 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out at Moses Mabhida stadium on Saturday night.
It was not the first time South Africa has been eliminated in an Afcon quarter-final match against Mali. In 2002, when Mali hosted the continental showpiece, they beat Bafana 2-nil in the quarter-finals.
Bafana were the first to score through pacey striker Tokelo Rantie in the 30th minute following a brilliant combination initiated by midfielder maestro May Mahlangu and Thuso Phala. However, Bafana Bafana head coach, Gordon Igesund was forced to substitute Rantie after he sustained an injury. He was replaced by Lehlohonolo Majoro.
Despite the pressure put on Bafana by Mali to get an equaliser, the home team went to the half-time break still leading 1-nil. In the second-half, Mali was still in control of the match as Bafana were struggling to get each other going forward. At the back, Bafana defence was shaky especially on the right flank, where Siboniso Gaxa was struggling to close down Samassa.
This pressure paid off in the 57th minute when Bafana’s Gaxa left Samassa unmarked on the right flank, forcing Bafana skipper Khumalo to go and cover. But Samassa delivered a nice cross to his country’s top striker and skipper, Seydou Keita, who easily beat Khune with a header.
This equaliser silenced the home crowd who had been cheering their national team with vuvuzelas. Mali seemed to have realised that Gaxa was not up to the task as they continued to put more pressure on the right flank, but they failed to score a winning goal.
Igesund then substituted Thuso Phala and brought in Thulani Serero, while Siphiwe Tshabalala came in for his Kaizer Chiefs teammate, Bernard Parker, but all this did not change the status quo. As the two teams failed to find the back of the net after 90 minutes, the match went to extra time.
Tshabalala, who came in as a substitute, was the only South African player to score, while Dean Furman, Mahlangu and Majoro failed to score.
Mali players who scored the penalties by sending Khune to the wrong direction were Cheick Diabate, Adama Tamboura and Mahamane Traore.
South Africa were the second casualties of the quarter-finals of the Afcon after the Black Stars of Ghana beat Cape Verde 2-nil in an earlier match played at the Nelson Mandela stadium. Ghana’s goals were scored by Wakaso Mubarak in the second-half. He scored the first goal in the 54th minute through a penalty after Cape Verde defender Carlitos pushed Asamoah Gyan in the box.
As Cape Verde continued to put more pressure to the black Stars looking for an equaliser, they were awarded a corner kick in injury time, goalkeeper, Vozinha went forward to help his teammate to attack the opponents.
The Black Stars were solid at the back and caught the Black Sharks of Cape Verde on a counter-attack on the dying minute of the game, Wakaso received a nice pass and raced towards an empty net and scored his second goal.
With South Africa and Cape Verde now out of the Afcon tournament, it is now clear that the trophy is heading to west Africa. All the remaining six national teams are from that region., including Ghana, Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. On Sunday Ivory Coast will face Nigeria at the Royal Bafokeng stadium, while Togo will play Burkina Faso in Mbombela.