South Africa made a winning a start in their maiden African Nations Championship (CHAN) appearance on Saturday as they beat Ghana 2-1.
Both scorers for the SA team – Myron Shongwe Zimba and Bheki Shabangu – were second half substitutes. Ghana, CHAN’s 2009 runners-up, had taken an 18 minute lead via midfielder Daniel Koomson.
Shongwe, who plays for AmaZulu in the Premier League, equalised on the hour mark before Shabangu took advantage of a defensive mix-up to seal the win for South Africa, who now tops Group B.
The SA squad is made up of inexperienced players from amateur leagues. Striker Collins Zimba of Vodacom League’s Vardos FC, Shongwe and captain Jacob Mokhasi, a SuperSport United goalkeeper, are the only players with any Premier League experience.
The South African coach Sipho Ngomane described the match as tough: “It was a very physical match, they threw everything at us but we were well prepared for them. Once we dealt with that aspect we were able to play our brand of football that saw us come back from a goal down. It’s a good result and a real confidence booster for these young boys who were not given a chance but managed to hold their own against a formidable side like Ghana.”
In the other Group B match on Saturday, Niger shocked Zimbabwe. The west Africans, who are making their first appearance in a major continental tournament, won the game through Adamou Abdoulkader’s strike in the 70th minute.
Niger will now meet SA on Wednesday, while Ghana and Zimbabwe will battle for maximum points to stay in the hunt for a place in the next round.