Next up in Mongomo, was the remaining teams from the Group of Death, South Africa taking on the much fancied Algerian side, so impressive in last year’s World Cup in Brazil and in qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations, would they be able to carry their momentum into this competition. Their opposition, also on the back of an impressive qualification campaign, unbeaten in fact, have also been attracting attention with an attacking style deployed by Ephraim Mashaba.
Even with all the talent on display, the first half was probably the drabbest 45 minutes of the tournament so far, chances at a premium as both teams felt each other out. South African forward Tokelo Rantie showed flashes of speed to go past players but very little in the way of shots on goal was produced, the best save of the half by South African ‘keeper Darren Keet, keeping out a thumping Sofiane Feghouli header. In between the Algerian posts Rais M’Bolhi was also impressive when called upon, tipping a Dean Furman free-kick onto the crossbar and making saves from Theo Matlaba and Andile Jali, but that was it in terms of goalmouth when the half-time whistle went.
The game was to be turned on it’s head in the second half though, only five minutes gone when Bafana Bafana took the lead with a quite brilliant goal by Thuso Phala finshing off a neat one touch passing move including a sublime back-heel from Rantie, from close range. Moments later and South Africa had the chance to double their lead from the penalty spot, Sibusiso Vilakazi being caught clumsily in the box by Aissa Mandi. Ivorian referee Noumandiez Doue chose not to send Mandi off, feeling a yellow card sufficient and Algeria were further left off the hook when Rantie smashed the spot-kick against the cross-bar.
This was to be a turning point in the game, Algeria gaining focus and control of the game, immediately creating chances, the first from Islam Slimani needing a double save from Keet, first with his feet, then pushing onto the woodwork, fantastic stuff from the Kortrijk stopper. But his goal was to be breached shortly after, was initially looked like a Ishak Belfodil back-header from a cross was actually an own-goal off the head of a back-pedalling Thulani Hlatshwayo, his unfortunate connection with the ball looping over Keet into the empty net to make it one apiece. There was worse to come for South Africa and the Desert Eagles sensed the deflation in a side now drawing when they could so easily have been two up. Five miutes laterthe Algerians were ahead, Keet only able to get a weak hand to a rasping shot from Napoli left-back Faouzi Ghoulam after turning Oupa Manyisa inside-out. There was till worse to come as the South Africans look shell-shocked and unable to compete with an Algerian side growing in confidence more and more as the game went on. Solid for the most part of the game in the South African goal, Keet will not enjoy watching replays of the third and final goal, securing the 3-1 victory. A tame effort from 20 yards by Slimani somehow squeezing under his body and over the line to end a stunning collapse for Bafana Bafana, who now a buoyant Senegal team. Coach ‘Shakes’ Mashaba now has a job on his hands to motivate his side to getting a much-needed result in that game whilst Algeria will go into the game with an under-strength Ghana side confident in their ability to take all three points.