By FOCUS REPORTER
THE South African Development Team gave head coach Simon Ngomane a perfect birthday present when they came from behind to defeat Zimbabwe 2-1 yesterday the Orange African Nations Championship (CHAN).
This victory at the Hilal Stadium in Khartoum, Sudan saw the SA side qualified for the quarterfinals of the competition whcih marks its second edition.
Ngomane celebrated his 47th birthday on Saturday (11 February 2011) and could not ask for a better present than that.
The result means South Africa have won all their three matches in the group stages of the tournament. They have conceded two goals and scored six. They beat Ghana 2-1, then Niger 2-0.
Zimbabwe took the lead through Norman Maroto in the second minute of the game, but South Africa found the equaliser in the 33rd minute through first half substitute Bheki Shabangu who had come in three minutes earlier for Sakhile Kunene. Nhlakanipho Mkhwanazi scored the match winner in the 62nd minute to help South Africa maintain their impressive unbeaten record.
South Africa will face Algeria in the quarterfinals on Friday, February 18. The match was previously scheduled to take place at the Madeni Stadium but has now been moved to the Khartoum Stadium. Kickoff is at 5pm local time in Sudan (4pm SA time).
Ngomane congratulated his team for a good fight in what was probably their toughest match of the tournament mentally.
“Having won the first two matches, I was afraid complacency was going to creep in, so the players had to be strong mentally to win this one. I am impressed with the way they carried on about their job. I want them to forget about the next match for a while and just enjoy the victory and the achievement so far, we will only start thinking about the next match later. We should not fool ourselves though, Algeria will be a tougher encounter than what we have faced so far in this tournament. They are a very strong side, just like most North African teams, but we have worked very hard and will continue doing so this week before we face them on Friday. We will be playing on an artificial turf for the first time in the tournament and that in itself will be a big challenge. But we will deal with that when the time comes,” said Ngomane.
Watching from the stands when South Africa defeated Zimbabwe was President of the South African Football Association (SAFA) Kirsten Nematandani, who was equally impressed by the boys’ performance.
“We need to congratulate each and every member of the team on a job well done. I need to remind you though, that it is not over as the journey has just begun, this is the beginning of new and even tougher challenges but I have confidence in your abilities and I believe that no challenge is too big to overcome. You can achieve even bigger things because you are there for one another and that is one of your most powerful weapons and I want to urge you guys to use this powerful tool going forward. Well done once again and good luck for the future,” said Nematandani.
The President also took time to congratulate Bafana Bafana and the Under 23 teams that won their matches.
“To Pitso Mosimane and his boys you continue to do us proud with your performance every time the team plays. The victory over Kenya is a good indicator of the hard work that the team puts in , and it is such results that help propel Bafana Bafana higher on the FIFA World rankings. We want to believe it was a good morale booster for a tough assignment against Egypt next month and we will be with you every step of the way to support the side. As for Shakes Mashaba, the 4-1 win over Angola in the first leg of the All Africa Games qualifier is very encouraging. And without putting you and the boys under pressure we are hopeful that the job will be completed here at home this coming weekend (Sunday, 20 February 2011). I urge the fans to come in numbers to fill the Sinaba Stadium and urge our boys on. You also have our great support, all the best in the second leg,” added Nematandani.