BAFANA Bafana took bronze at the COSAFA Cup tournament after defeating Lesotho 2-1 in the third place play-off at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, Zambia.
Goals from either side of the half from Mandla Masango and Hlompho Kekana were enough to see South Africa through, while Maile Tlali replied for Lesotho from the penalty spot.
Bafana Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund made three changes to the squad that lost to Zambia in the semi-final – bringing on Masango, Lerato Chabangu and Mzikayise Mashaba, with Ruzaigh Gamildien, Katlego Mashego and Thabani Mthembu making way.
South Africa started the brightest of the two nations, and dictated terms from early on.
Their real chance came in the 17th minute when Mashaba’s powerful close-range shot was stopped by the Lesotho goalkeeper.
Three minute later, much against the run of play, Bafana Bafana conceded a penalty when Thulani Hlatshwayo was adjudged to have fouled an opponent in the box – Tlale scored to give Lesotho the lead.
South Africa kept on pushing forward and attacking at relentlessly but Lesotho held firm. In the 40th minute Masango saw his shot cleared off the line with the keeper well beaten.
But there was no denying him three minutes later when he levelled matters – this was after a well-worked free kick from Chabangu.
Shortly after the restart, Chabangu could have been on the score sheet when, with the keeper to beat, his lob sailed over the crossbar.
Bafana Bafana took the lead in the 53rd minute following good play from Hlompho Kekana. He collected the ball on the line, beat one marker and scored from a difficult angle to make it 2-1. This was his second goal in the tournament, and he walked away with the Man of the Match Award.
“As a team we carried ourselves very well, the performance was great, we applied ourselves very well and we can’t ask for more. We knew it was going to be tough because all the teams want to beat us so we had to work very hard to get this win. Good work from the coach and the technical team for getting this far in the tournament. We really wanted to be in the final, but I guess third place is also something to appreciate,” said Kekana.
Lesotho was given a life-line in the 69th minute when Buhle Mkhwanazi was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. From the resulting penalty, Bafana Bafana captain Wayne Sandilands kept his side in the match with a great save to deny Maile – who had scored the first penalty for Lesotho.
And that is how it stayed, South Africa earning themselves a third place finish in the 2013 COSAFA CUP tournament.
“No disrespect to Lesotho, but I think it was too easy for my players. Lesotho relied heavily on counter attacks which did not really work. We had too many chances to score and I hope the players will learn that we have to be more clinical, more ruthless, finish the opponent off when we have a chance. But I am quite happy with the result. It shows the boys wanted to be in the final and they did well even though it’s not the same as being in the final. But I am glad we won,” said Igesund.
The Bafana Bafana mentor is also pleased with what he saw from the tournament, but is adamant preparation has to be better than what transpired before South Africa went to Zambia.
“I want to believe it’s been a good experience for most of these players, at the end of the day it was good exposure for them. I also saw a couple of good things from one or two of them, and this tournament was a good stepping stone for them to get that much needed experience. But I am still saying we have to sit down and plan this thoroughly,” added Igesund.
“Our approach in the future must be spot on. You need to get young players and mix them well with the experienced ones. I have been saying that the U20 and U23 players have to start participating in tournaments like this one but for their age group. Take them to Germany and around the world to get experience, not bring them into Bafana Bafana to get that experience.”