South Africa last night claimed the bronze medal at the 2019 African Under-20 Championships, defeating old foes Nigeria 5-3 following a 0-0 draw at full time.
For the second time in the tournament, poor penalty kicks from the Flying Eagles showed the team was clearly lacking in their tactics.
Failure to put away a number of opportunities that came their way proved fatal for the seven –time champions, who endured the humiliation of finishing outside the medals’ range at the tournament for the first time. After goalkeeper and captain of South Africa, Khulekani Kubheka saved the first spot-kick in the shoot-out, Amajita converted all of their penalties to claim the consolation of third pmace in Niger, their second best finish in the continental championships after silver in 1997.
It is reward for coach Thabo Senong, who has also steered the team to FIFA Under-20 World Cup qualification in Poland in May, but could not get them to the gold medal.
Amajita were once again organized and disciplined in defence, and had to absorb pressure from the more adventurous Nigerians.
Alhassan Adamu, who scored the goal against host nation Niger Republic that made the Flying Eagles finish at the top of Group A and earn a place at the World Cup, fluffed Nigeria’s first kick in the shoot –out, following a dismal show by both teams in regulation time.
As has been the case throughout the tournament, Amajita battled to create chances in open play, with the two goals they have scored in their five games coming from a free-kick and a penalty.
It will be the major concern for Senong ahead of the World Cup, with the likes of European-based stars Lyle Foster and Tashreeq Matthews, who were not released by their clubs for this competition, he will believe his side will pack more of a punch up front.
Kobamelo Kodisang, who has been excellent throughout the competition, saw his goal-bound shot blocked, which was about the sum of South Africa’s attempts on goal.
But Nigeria offered little as well and while Kubheka made a few good saves, he was not unduly troubled as the teams played to a second 0-0 draw in Niger following their stalemate in the group stages as well.
Amajita recorded one win, three draws and a defeat in their five games, with the only match in which they were comprehensively outplayed being the 1-0 semifinal loss to Senegal, who will contest tomorrow’s final with Mali.