By Peter Alegi | November 11th, 2010 3 Comments
The biggest day in South African women’s football history ended in heartbreak as Equatorial Guinea defeated Banyana Banyana 3-1 after extra time on Thursday at a packed Sinaba stadium in Daveyton outside Johannesburg. After 90 minutes the score was 0-0.
The decisive moment came in the 103rd minute. Salimata Simpore capitalized on a defensive mistake by Van Wyk with a simple finish from just inside the box to give the defending champions a 1-0 lead they did not relinquish.
Psychologically shaken and physically tired, the hosts collapsed. In the 109th minute, a Banyana corner led to a breakaway by Equatorial Guinea that ended with a Jade cross being clumsily deflected by Dludlu inside the far post for an own goal that put the game away. As the deflated home crowd filed out of the stadium, Salimata collected a cross, and in one smooth move faked out a Banyana defender and the goalkeeper to slot home a third goal. Amanda Dlamini saved South Africa’s honor with a delicate chip over the keeper two minutes from time. Final score: 3-1 Equatorial Guinea.
The game had started with the defending champions in control, a fact reflected in their 60 per cent possession of the ball in the first twenty minutes. But the first chance fell to South Africa in the 14th minute when in-form striker Amanda Dlamini squandered the easiest of chances, shooting right at the goalkeeper from close range. Banyana gained confidence and territory in the latter part of the first half, largely thanks to Jafta’s domination of the midfield. Just before the break, Van Wyk’s free kick missile from 40 meters out (!) was tipped over the bar by Miriam. On the ensuing corner, Jafta turned and struck a wonderful shot from near the penalty spot, which forced a miraculous diving save from the Equatorial Guinea keeper. No score after a bruising first half. South Africa would come to rue the missed chances.
The second half was more guarded, neither side wanting to risk making a costly mistake. The Togolese referee seemed far too tolerant of rough tackling, with several players on both sides suffering injuries that required bandaging of heads as well as “holy water” treatment. Despite notching 56 percent of possession, Banyana were unable to penetrate, or seriously threaten the Equatorial Guinea defense anchored by Carolina. Then a turning point in the match: Augustine Makalakalane, South Africa’s coach, replaced Jafta with Makhabane, hoping to gain in creativity and attacking force. Instead the move backfired as Equatorial Guinea asserted control of the midfield. The best chances in the final twenty minutes fell to Chinasa Okoro and Salimata, with goalkeeper Mndaweni doing well to stop them in one-on-one situations.
Dlamini almost won it for South Africa on the stroke of 90 minutes with a high shot to the near post that Miriam parried away for a corner. As we readied ourselves for extra time, Salimata broke away from her marker down the right side but failed to deliver an easy pass to Chinasa for the simplest of tap-in goals. It was a sign of things to come.
Earlier in the day, news reports in South Africa had criticized Equatorial Guinea for quickly giving citizenship to players from Brazil, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Senegal. According to kickoff.com, Salimata even played in the AWC qualifiers for Ivory Coast! Cameroon lodged an official protest about Salimata in the group stage, but CAF appears uninterested in pursuing the case.
So Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria — 5-1 winners over Cameroon in the other semifinal — will represent Africa at 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. The African champion will be determined on Sunday.