The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations third-place playoff between South Africa and Congo DR at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium on Saturday February 10, 2024.
Both nations play against each other after their disappointing semi-final defeats, with the Bafana Bafana losing on penalties after a commendable showing against Nigeria, while the Leopards were beaten by tournament hosts Cote D’Ivoire.
It remains to be seen what South Africa have left in the tank when they feature in the third-place game after the mental and physical exertion of playing extra time in the quarter and semi-finals.
Hugo Broos’s men could still be reeling after Wednesday’s loss to Nigeria, having surprised the Super Eagles with their switch to a back three and superior coherence for the opening half.
However, the Bafana Bafana could not edge ahead despite finding joy between the lines and exploiting the West African nation’s passive structure without the ball, in which the three-time champions kept a high defensive line but did not pressure the opponent in possession.
The South Africans fell behind after the interlude but levelled in the 90th minute through Teboho Mokoena’s late penalty and could have won it with the game’s last kick, with Khuliso Mudau shooting over from inside the six-yard box after Stanley Nwabali parried Mokoena’s free kick.
The game went into extra time, and despite Broos’s men playing for penalties, convinced by the heroics of Ronwen Williams against Cape Verde, the shot-stopper saved none of Nigeria’s kicks in the defeat despite stopping four against the Blue Sharks.
That loss ended the 1996 champions’ ambition to make their first AFCON final since 1998 and play for a second African title, and they now seek a response to finish third.
While the side they meet on Saturday did not suffer a defeat as biting as South Africa’s against Nigeria, DR Congo’s wait for their first continental title since 1974 continues.
Sebastien Desabre’s men lost 1#0 to the Elephants, with Sebastien Haller’s unorthodox 65th-minute finish looping over Lionel M’pasi after half time, continuing the Leopards’ unwanted run of not making the deciding game at the finals.
DRC have lost their last three semis, exiting in 1998 to Bafana Bafana and Cote D’Ivoire in 2015 and at the ongoing finals, and they go into the third place fixture keen to end their tournament positively.
Having claimed third in 1998 and 2015, Desabre hopes history is in their favour on Saturday to wash the disappointment of losing to the hosts out of their minds.
However, the Leopards sneaking through the tournament, they progressed from their group without winning a game and got the better of Egypt on penalties, could be worrying for Saturday’s clash.
Broos is expected to revert to a back four, having matched Nigeria’s back three in the semi-final defeat.
Siyanda Xulu is expected to keep his place in the team at centre-back after Grant Kekana’s extra-time sending-off against Nigeria.
Gael Kakuta returned to the side against the Elephants but only lasted 45 minutes before going off for Theo Bongonda, and the latter should play from the off for DRC against South Africa.
Desabre could ask his AFCON 2023 outfield ever-presents Chancel Mbemba, Gedeon Kalulu, Arthur Masuaku and Samuel Moutoussamy for one more performance on Saturday.
South Africa possible starting line-up
Williams; Mudau, Xulu, Mvala, Modiba; Mokoena, Sithole; Morena, Zwane, Tau; Makgopa
DR Congo possible starting line-up
M’Pasi; Kalulu, Mbemba, Inonga, Masuaku; Pickel, Moutoussamy; Elia, Bongonda, Wissa; Bakambu
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