The tournament hosts opened their campaign on Sunday afternoon against an in-form Barea. Both the homes side and the islanders were looking to join Zambia and Lesotho in the next round after their respective victories on Saturday. Ahead of kick off, Bafana Bafana were certainly favourites on paper as Madagascar had never previously beaten South Africa.
Nonetheless, Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter was taking nothing for granted as he named an impressive starting XI with a unique blend youth and experience. Most notably, Baxter looked to utilise the confidence of the Maritzburg United quartet of Siyanda Xulu, Lebohang Maboe, Siphesihle Ndlovu and Fortune Makaringe. While Madagascar would rely on dangerous playmaker Dax.
As expected it was Bafana who were looking to move onto the front foot early with Maboe narrowly missing the target following a set piece. Thereafter the game would become a tightly fought contest. That was until the 20-minute mark, where Luther Singh was superbly played through on goal, but the 20-year-old failed to beat the Madagascar keeper who made a solid stop from close range, keeping the score level.
The game though, would again revert to a cagey battle in the middle of the park as both sides were reluctant to make mistakes. But again, the counter attack would prove fruitful for Bafana only for Maboe to be denied on this occasion. This time the Madagascar keeper needed to use his feet as he kept the attacker’s shot out.
Bafana coach Baxter would certainly have been disappointed with his sides lack of killer instinct upfront as on several occasions, his attack was guilty of overplaying and not taking a shot or releasing the ball at the right time, and subsequently went into the half-time interval level.
Nonetheless, the second half saw Baxter remove a rather ineffective Gift Motupa in favour of Bidvest Wits attack Abednego Mosiatlhaga. But despite the change it was the away side who threatened first. Bafana keeper Reyaad Pieterse had to be at his best as he denied the Madagascar attacker, before the South African defence would avert the danger with a vital block to take the ball out for a corner.
The close shave came as an eye opener for Bafana who seemed to once again come out of their shell. But yet again they were being let down in the final third as the game past the hour mark goalless. But with time running out and Madagascar beginning to tire, Aubrey Modiba came agonisingly close to sending the Peter Mokaba Stadium into rapture, only for his thunderous left-footed effort to cannon off the woodwork.
The tide seemed to turn in favour of the home side as they began to bombard the Madagascar attack with wave after wave of pressure. But Madagascar remained resolute, repelling whatever was thrown at them which saw Baxter throw caution to the wind in the game’s final minutes as he brought on Lyle Foster and Jamie Webber. But the changes came a little too late as the game needed to be decided from the penalty spot as neither side could find the all-important goal.
Madagascar would eventually come out trumps as in spite of Pieterse’s early heroics, Webber and Singh would miss their penalties as Bafana missed out on the semi-finals yet again.