Durban — South Africa were perilously close to becoming the first host team in almost two decades not to make it past the first round at the African Nations Cup. But their ability to find their way back twice and draw with Morocco on Sunday night gives them renewed hope for the knockout phase.
Bafana Bafana eventually topped Group A on a topsy-turvy, drama-filled Sunday night at the tournament, where the permutations changed repeatedly. All four sides, at various stages of an unfolding 90-minute saga, were in with a chance of qualification during the match in Durban and that being played simultaneously in Port Elizabeth between Cape Verde and Morocco.
May Mahlangu and Siyabonga Sangweni both scored in the last 20 minutes to equalise for South Africa after Morocco had twice caught their defence napping.
Coach Gordon Igesund described it as a tough game but “we’ve now achieved our first objective,” he said.
“We had to cancel out two goals from Morocco that we should never have allowed in, but we did what we had to do.”
South Africa now believes that with a little momentum and good fortune they can go all the way to the final at Soccer City on February 10.
“I’ve said it from day one and I’ve believed it all a long that we can go on and win this,’ says Igesund, possibly now less to drum up the morale of his troops than with conviction.
“We need a little luck, some momentum, Morocco were very tough. But we were brave.”
The draw meant Morocco are eliminated without losing a match … but without winning one either.
“We depart with our heads high and our dignity intact,” a tearful coach Rachid Taoussi said after the draw at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“I’m very happy with my team and with the improvement we’ve made over the last weeks.
“For me our performances have been positive. This is a side with an average age of 24. It can only get better. Now we look ahead to the World Cup qualifiers. This tournament has been a step for our young side but we have the capacity now to go on and qualify for Brazil.”