Two remaining teams from the Confederation of Southern Africa Football Association (COSAFA) region at the on-going 2023 African Cup of Nations, South Africa and Angola have on Thursday night clashed out of the tournament.
Despite putting wonderful spirited performances the two teams lacked the match needed killer instincts having managed creating numerous goal scoring opportunities.
The host nation, Ivory Coast unexpectedly advanced smoothly to the grand final of the continent’s soccer festival having seen off the highly fancied Congo Democratic Republic (DR) while the Super Eagles of Nigeria had to wait for a complete 120-minute cycle to overcome Bafana-Bafana through post-march penalties.
Up until Wednesday night the two-time champions, Congo DR gave away nothing to the opposition through sheer determination and robust football, so fit, strong on the ball and full of hunger, promised a lot coming into the match but only to flop badly to a point of being unable to take a decent shot on target, let alone claw the Elephants.
On the contrary, Ivory Coast missing four of their prolific players due to second yellow cards accumulated in earlier matches, were full of life and resilient. They smothered a disjointed Congo which appeared to have run out of fuel and purpose, arguably, this was a game in which they looked so cold at AFCON 2023.
Sensing that Congo DR were that impotent, Ivory Coast kept on attacking, on a number of occasions they came close to opening their score sheet but their man, Sebastien Haller kept on missing clear scoring chances.
The first-half ending in a 0-0 stalemate wasn’t a true reflection of the proceedings, pressure by the home capacity crowd they got a deserved reward in the 65mins when Haller’s miscued shot on the inside left edge of the box bounced awkwardly in front of the keeper then zoomed upwards and higher to the far upright beating a diving Lionel Mpasi by a whisker.
Much as the Congolese tried to force their way back into contention, they just didn’t have the firepower to bother the Elephants.
Settling the rankings in what looks to be a fight for bronze medals, South Africa’s Bafana-Bafana will line up against fellow COSAFA brothers, the Leopards of DR Congo in Saturday night soccer fiesta.
Come Sunday, Ivory Coast will take on the Super Eagles to bring AFCON 2023 to a scintillating and mouth watering conclusion.