South Africa joined Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, after finishing the ongoing Total U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in third place, defeating Ghana 6-5 on penalties after 2-2 draw in the third place match played at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday evening.
After a thrilling encounter that saw both sides performing high level football, it was the South Africa who had the last smile when they secured their place in next summer’s Olympics for the third time in their history and second successive after Rio 2016. Ghana will return home with heads high after some breathtaking performances that gained people’s hearts, but luck wasn’t at their side at the end.
Ghana’s Habib Mohamed scored in his own net at the quarter hour mark to give South Africa an early lead. Habib tried to stop Luther Singh’s cross but he wrongly turned it into his net.
The South Africans had the upper hand through the opening half, but wasted many chances to double their lead as both sides went to the break with 1-0 lead for the Southern side.
Ghana returned much stronger, and five minutes after the break they equalized. Evans Mensah received the outside the penalty area, and sent a curling shot to beat South Africa’s goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto.
But the South Africans responded immediately. Two minutes after the hour mark, the substitute Kamohelo Mhlatsi who barely spent a minute on the pitch restored their lead, when he received Lyle Foster’s pass to send a scorcher inside the Ghanaian net.
And when it looked all set for South Africa’s win, Ghana scored a late equalizer. Evans Mensah rounded his marker and sent a cross that fell to substitute Samuel Obeng who made no mistake to score and restore parity yet again five minutes from time. The game was sent directly to penalty shootout to determine the winner.
The shootout saw both sides missing twice, before South Africa’s goalkeeper Mpoto saved Michael Agbekpornu kick to send his side to Tokyo.