gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); South Africa stun Morocco to clinch Afcon quarter-final slot – The Zimbabwe Mail

South Africa stun Morocco to clinch Afcon quarter-final slot

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Second-half strikes from Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena earned Bafana Bafana arguably the shock result of an Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) characterised by upsets as they sent World Cup finalists Morocco packing with a 2-0 last 16 win on Tuesday night.

Makgopa stunned coach Walid Regragui’s crack Atlas Lions as he opening the scoring in the 57th minute. Morocco’s renowned right-back Achraf Hakimi missed a penalty in the 85th.

Morocco were reduced to 10 men when Sofyan Amrabat was dismissed in the fourth minute of added time. Mokoena’s superb free-kick a minute later added time sealed the deal for South Africa.

Belgian coach Hugo Broos will take a victory lap that a team missing European-based stars Lebo Mothiba (injured) and Lyle Foster (mental health issues) remain alive at Afcon after dispatching one of Africa’s most formidable line-ups at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, Ivory Coast.

There might be some question marks from the Moroccans over the decisions of Sudanese referee Mahmood Ismail and his VAR team.

But Bafana’s superb defence and shape, front runners’ ability to trouble Morocco on the counterattack and Trojan work of Sphephelo Sithole and especially the spectacular Mokoena in midfield were what earned the South Africans another epic upset at a Nations Cup.

In 2019 South Africa stunned hosts Egypt in the last 16. As they prepare to meet Cape Verde in Saturday’s quarterfinal (in Yamoussoukro at 10pm SA time), the sense is that this is a more rounded and impressive Bafana under Broos and a path further might be on the cards.

South Africa set the tone for the result by more than holding their own in the opening half.

Morocco came out looking threatening with their sharpness in the pass and clinical authority on the ball. But South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns back four of Khuliso Mudau, Grant Kekana, Mothobi Mvala and Maphosa Modiba largely contained the Atlas Lions.

Inside 10 minutes Morocco earned a corner that was half-cleared by Makgopa. The ball was worked back into the area and Youssef En-Nesyri got in, forcing a point-blank save from Ronwen Williams.

It was Mokoena, of course, who engineered some forward momentum with a dipping shot from outside the box that had goalkeeper Yassin Bounou stretched in the 16th.

Bafana kept compact and increasingly had a lid on their formidable opponents.

It was an understandably nervy start back from the change rooms for South Africa, as Morocco predictably came out piling on the pressure.

Azzedine Ounani played Youssef En-Nesyri through on the right of the box and took the return pass to blast over the bar. Abde Ezzalzouli went down under the physical attention of Mudau in the box, with VAR ruling it was not a penalty.

Again, though, the South Africans kept calm and took the wind out of Morocco’s potential storm.

With the hour approaching Sithole turned and fed Themba Zwane, whose superb touch slipped Makgopa through one-on-one to beat Bounou. VAR ruled the goal legitimate despite a hint of offside.

Again, Morocco tried to pummel their way through and again the Bafana defence mostly stood firm.

In the 81st Azzedine Ounahi’s ball across the face found substitute Ayoub El Kaabi to strike Mvala on the arm in front of the goal line, and VAR awarded the penalty. Hakimi unthinkably cannoned his strike to beat Ronwen Williams but skim the top of the crossbar.

In added time midfielder Amrabat clattered down Mokoena as the South African charged through from a long ball. Referee Ismail produced a second yellow card that was rescinded by VAR, who then awarded a straight red for the same result.

Mokoena deservedly capped a virtuoso display with a goal, and what a strike it was — curling a free-kick from outside the box on the left past Bounou.