Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal and Ivory Coast make semis


Once the dust had settled, Cameroon’s sudden-death penalty-shootout victory over Nigeria meant they would face Egypt in one semi-final tomorrow, while Ivory Coast sneaked into the other semi against Senegal, despite losing to Cape Verde, also on a penalty shootout.

There was no shortage of intense excitement for the fans who packed into the purpose-built stadium with two of the four matches ending tied after normal and extra time, which meant a sudden-death penalty shootout to decide the winner, while South Africa finally found their shooting boots and won 4-3 in an exciting clash against Egypt.

The first match of the day saw Ivory Coast go down in a shock defeat to Cape Verde.

The two teams ended the match 2-2, but Cape Verde secured their first African Cup Qualifying win when Polido Brito scored his penalty after his goalkeeper Humberto Lopes had saved Ayemou Bobou's spot kick in the sudden-death shootout.

The second match was a one-sided rout with the hapless Mozambique leaking 12 goals without reply against Senegal, who ended top of Pool A with two wins and one loss.

Then arguable the top two teams at the tournament took to the pitch with Cameroon finally beating Nigeria in the second sudden-death shootout of the day.

The two teams produced a match of the highest standard, which neither deserved to lose and the 3-3 scoreline at the end of fulltime was a fair result. But, beach soccer rules state that there has to be a winner and after a goalless extra time, Cameroon secured a 3-2 win in the shootout thanks to a diving save from goalkeeper Marc Ngoh who palmed Bartholomew Ibenegbu's shot round the post.

That meant Nigeria were relegated to third position behind Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire in the Pool B standings. It was a sad way to end the tournament for Nigeria who enjoyed a massively superior goal difference to Ivory Coast, but lost out on a place in the semis because of the result of their head-to-head match - which Ivory Coast won 5-4 on Tuesday.

In the final match of the day the young South African team put their supporters through a roller-coaster of emotions as the fortunes swung from one team to the other with more regularity than was good for anybody with a weak heart.

A strike from Abd El-Hamid Mohamed was all that separated the two teams after the first period, but South Africa equalised in the last seconds of the second when Philani Gumede collected the rebound off the keeper from his own free kick and neatly slotted it into the bottom left corner.

But the joy of equalising was quickly cancelled out at the start of the third period when Aly Ahmed on the far post slotted the ball past Siyabonga Mbambo in the South Africa goal.

The roller coaster of emotions was turned around again when Lucky Dlamini rocketed a strike into the back of the net from the halfway line to level up the scores as the South African team suddenly seemed to find the route to the net.

As with their disastrous loss to Mozambique on Wednesday, the South African side was struggling to get the ball on target and, despite enjoying far more strikes at goal, they were troubling the keeper with very few of their shots until the last period of their last match.

Less than a minute after drawing level, Bandile Lekena scrambled the ball home to give South Africa the lead for the first time. But, once again their was no rest for the supporters as Osman Abdellatif’s shot a couple of minutes later bounced off Mbambo and spun over the line to equalise matters once more.

This time the disappointment lasted for about five seconds of playing time as Gumede smashed the match-winning goal from the restart.

Both teams had their chances in the dying seconds but, to the delight of the capacity crowd, the young South Africans hung on for a morale-boosting win.

Egypt ended second in the group with two wins while South Africa and Mozambique failed to reach the semis with one win each.