Bafana Bafana needed only a draw against Ghana to force their way into the final qualifying round, but after the penalty setback, they were unable to recover.
CAPE TOWN – Bafana Bafana’s 2022 FIFA World Cup dream evaporated into the night air after Ghana ran out slender 1-0 winners in their decisive Group G qualifier at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium on Sunday evening, after leading 1-0 at halftime.
The visiting South Africans needed only a draw to force their way into the final qualifying round. However, after the penalty setback, they were unable to recover and dropped out of the race for next year’s showpiece in Qatar.
Both teams finished on 13 points and with a goal difference of four, but Ghana’s seven goals, as opposed to Bafana’s six, gave them the green light into the next qualifying round.
It was not our day today. We are disappointed. We carried you, in our hearts South Africa. We fought hard. We wanted a World Cup as badly as you did. From all of us – THANK YOU for the belief and support along this journey. #WCQ2022 🙏🏽
— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) November 14, 2021
Senegalese referee Maguette N’Diaye ruined the first half for Bafana Bafana just past the half-hour mark when he awarded Ghana a dubious penalty and a yellow card for central defender Rushine de Reuck. The television replays showed Ghana’s Daniel Amartey, the Leicester City midfielder, falling to the ground without De Reuck laying a hand on him after a Ghana corner kick.
De Reuck was too shocked to even remonstrate with the referee, and in the absence of VAR (video assistant referee), there was no chance of overturning the penalty decision.
Ghana captain Andre Ayew converted the ‘spot kick’ after sending the Bafana Bafana captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams the wrong way (1-0). The goal was his 100th for the ‘Black Stars’.
Ghana dominated first-half possession, and their efforts were worth at least two goals after their high press from around the 10th-minute mark saw the Bafana defence lose shape several times. Ghana’s physicality was a factor, and often they bullied the opposition off the ball.
A 6th-minute free-kick by Mohammed Kudus and 15th minute shot by Daniel-Kofi Kyereh were Ghana’s best scoring opportunities.
The first half was fast-paced for most of the way, and after a promising start, there was not much by way of enterprise from Bafana, who were forced to settle for a largely defensive role.
Bafana’s Terrence Mashego worked like a trojan in the side’s rearguard and brought off at least two goal-saving tackles. It appeared though that Bafana were hesitant in tackles in their goalmouth after conceding a controversial penalty.
When the second-half play started, Ghana looked decidedly threatening. Two close-in free kicks, just outside the Bafana goalmouth provided the platform for an insurance goal but the Bafana defence stood strong.
Over the next 20 minutes of play, Bafana pulled a few penetrative runs deep into the opposition half, but they failed to pull the trigger when they came within striking distance. Instead, they were always looking to lay off to supporting players, who were not necessarily better placed to hit the target.
In the 65th minute, Bafana had a great chance to land the equaliser, but Percy Tau’s curling attempt from a close-in free-kick when straight into the waiting arms of goalkeeper Joseph Wollacott.
Moments later, Tau shook off his markers as he made a run into the goalmouth but again his low parting shot was gathered by Wollacott.
Just after Keagan Dolly entered the fray at the expense of the hardworking Ethan Brooks, Tau was run off the ball plumb in front of Ghana’s posts in the penalty box, but the foul went unpunished.