South Africa qualify for Tokyo 2020

Mondli Mpoto. Pic: BackpagePix

Goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto was the hero for South Africa on Friday as they beat Ghana 6-5 on penalties to finish third at the 2019 Under-23 Caf Africa Cup of Nations and qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Men’s Olympic Football Tournament.

After a thrilling 2-2 draw in normal time, with South Africa leading twice but failing to hold on, it didn’t look good for David Notoane’s side as  Tercious Malepe put South Africa’s first spot kick over the bar.

Grant Margeman, Thendo Mukumela, and Luther Singh scored, however, and when Mpoto dived to his left to save from Kingsley Fobi, it was all tied up again. Athenkosi Dlala and Samuel Obeng then netted to take the shoot-out into sudden death.

Katlego Mohamme’s penalty was saved by Baah, but then Edward Sarpong put his penalty way over the bar.

Kabomelo Kodisang blasted his spot kick into the net, as did Fuseini Zakaria for Ghana. Lyle Foster then beat Baah to put South Africa ahead again, and when Mpoto saved from Cudjoe, the game was up.

Mpoto was only called into the team for this match as a replacement for Darren Johnson, whose performance against Egypt in the semifinals appeared to cost him his place in the side.

South Africa went in front in the 15th minute, as Singh broke away from the Ghana defence, and his cross to a slightly lucky deflection to beat Ghana goalkeeper Kwame Baah at his near post.

Notoane’s side then wasted several opportunities to add to their lead before half time, none more so than when Lyle Foster put the ball on a plate for Keletso Makgalwa, but he took way too long to shoot, and ended up having his effort blocked.

Foster also hit the bar for South Africa in the 40th minute, but it was Ghana who leveled five minutes after half time,  brilliant shot from Evans Mensah searing past Mpoto.

Singh had a chance from a 61st minute free kick, but his effort was well saved by Baah. A minute later, however, South Africa did go back in front, as a cross from Kegan Johannes bounced up off Foster and Mahlatsi beat Baah at his near post.

Foster blazed wide for South Africa when well-placed in the 75th minute and a minute later, Mensah blasted over an excellent chance for Ghana at the other end.

And Ghana did draw level with five minutes left, as some brilliant trickery from Mensah took him to the byline, and his cross was collected by Samuel Obeng, who span and beat Mpoto.



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