Makeshift Bafana hold Zambia, cruise into semis
Defending champions bow out of Cosafa Cup after a goalless draw with SA
The developmental Bafana Bafana team at the Cosafa Cup ended Group A unbeaten and top of the log with their 0-0 draw against Zambia at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Wednesday.
SA (10 points) had already qualified for the semifinals with two unconvincing 1-0 wins against Botswana and Eswatini which preceded Tuesday’s far more fluid 4-0 thrashing of Lesotho.
Defending champions Zambia, one of the favourites for the trophy, bowed out of the tournament. Eswatini’s 1-1 draw against Botswana saw them finish second in Group A and reach the semis, where they meet Senegal on Friday. Bafana play Namibia.
Given the bizarre scheduling of both teams playing their second game a day after their matches on Tuesday, their benches rang up the changes and both Zambia and SA dished up sluggish performances in a game of few chances.
Zambia started the tournament badly with 1-0 defeats to Lesotho and Eswatini but rallied to beat Botswana 2-1 on Tuesday.
Chipolopolo coach Milutin Sredojevic had a number of recognisable names — Mamelodi Sundowns keeper Kennedy Mweene, Polokwane City’s Salulani Phiri, Rodrick Kabwe of Black Leopards, Cape Town City’s Justin Shonga and AmaZulu’s Augustine Mulenga — in his team.
Having already qualified, SA sent out a mixed-strength line-up. Bafana assistant coach Morena Ramoreboli, taking charge while coach Helman Mkhalele isolates due to Covid-19, even gave some of the new call-ups who joined his team against Lesotho a second run in the space of 48 hours.
Centre-back Njabulo Ngcobo, left-back Sifiso Ngobeni and central midfielder Yusuf Maart were retained. Lebohang Maboe and Thabang Sibanyoni, who were substitutes in the Tuesday game, got starts.
SA’s hat-trick hero against Lesotho, Victor Letsoalo, was rested. Cape Town Spurs goalkeeper Lincoln Vyver and defenders Vusi Sibiya (Baroka FC) and Ayabulela Konqobe (Chippa United) got their first starts.
Both halves were a dour midfield battle. SA enjoyed more of the attacking play in the opening 45 minutes and had some half-chances, one of them when Maart chipped in from the edge of the box but Sibanyoni headed the ball over the top.
Zambia’s best opportunity came with the clock winding down to the break. Mulenga found space on the right and crossed, Phiri getting in ahead of his marker but heading off target.
Zambia pushed for a winning goal, though they must have been tired playing their second game in two days. SA worked hard to contain them.
Substitute Kelvin Kampamba’s low strike from outside the box bounced awkwardly and goalkeeper Vyver almost lost the ball to Zambia’s Ghampani Lungu, but it was not to be the goal Zambia sought to stay in the competition.
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