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AFCON 23: Bafana Bafana grabs AFCON bronze

Posted : 11 February 2024

The Bafana Bafana of South Africa have emerged as the bronze winners, defeating the toothless Leopards of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan, ending regular time goalless.

Bafana Bafana passed a makeup test, going straight into penalty shootouts without extra time, winning 6-5 on penalties.

Romwen Williams, Mamelodi Sundowns Goalkeeper and Captain of South Africa, who saved four penalty kicks against the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in the quarterfinals, played a crucial role in the kicks of the game of death, saving Young Boys of Switzerland player Meschak Elia's kick and making the entire South Africans proud.

The Leopards of DR Congo should have wrapped up the game within regular time, pressuring South Africa with long-range shots to destabilize the Bafana Bafana defense. However, they missed over 15 close chances to score due to constant indecision, leading to poor marksmanship with shots off target or weak shots that even a 70-year-old grandmother could easily pick up.

Both sides made changes to upgrade their plays in the second half, but it benefited the South Africans more as they were able to block many moves and shots from the Leopards of Congo.

The match was outright drab as both teams played below expectations. If they had played this kind of game earlier, they might not have gone beyond the group stages.

South Africans entered the 3rd place game demoralized from the loss in the semifinal to Nigeria.

South Africa has an African zone World Cup qualifier match against Nigeria in Abuja on 5th June this year before clashing with Zimbabwe at Jo'Borg on 8th June 2024.

All the Leopards' matches at the group stages were draws. They played 1-1 with Zambia, another 1-1 with Morocco, and goalless with Tanzania. In the Round of 16, the Leopards defeated the Pharaohs of Egypt via penalty kicks, 8-7, after a 1-1 draw at full time. In the quarterfinal, they stopped Guinea 3-1. DR Congo lost to Ivory Coast 0-1 in the semifinal.

South Africa lost to Mali 0-2, defeated Namibia 4-0, and played goalless with Tunisia at the group stages of the present tournament. They humbled Africa’s number one ranked team, Morocco, 2-0 in the Round of 16, and in a high-performance penalty shootout, ousted the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde 2-1 after fulltime was goalless in the quarterfinals. They played 1-1 with Nigeria at fulltime but lost on penalty kicks, 2-4.

South Africa, ranked 66th in the world and 12th in Africa, is making her 12th appearance at AFCON. In 1996, South Africa hosted and won 2-0 over Tunisia. They won Silver in 1998 at Burkina Faso, losing to Egypt 0-2. South Africa won the Bronze at the Nigeria/Ghana hosting of 2000, beating Tunisia on penalties 4-3 after 2-2 at full time. South Africa hosted in 2013 but failed to win a medal.

DR Congo failed to return to victory in the semifinal in 50 years since 1974. DRC was in her 6th AFCON semifinal, winning the previous two against Ethiopia in 1968 and Egypt in 1974.

There was some drama when Moroccan Referee Redouane Jiyad protested to CAF that he should handle the final match between Nigeria and Ivory Coast instead of Mauritanian Referee Dahanne Beida. Jiyad took the next available flight to Morocco and abandoned the 3rd place match.

CAF promptly replaced him with Bamlek Tessema Weyessa of Ethiopia. It was learned that his matter has been referred to the CAF Disciplinary Committee by the CAF Referees Committee.


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