Mali tops South Africa on penalties to reach semis
DURBAN, South Africa (AP) -Goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite made two saves in the shootout as Mali ousted host South Africa in the African Cup of Nations quarterfinals with a 3-1 win on penalties on Saturday.
It came down to penalties after they drew 1-1 in regulation and were scoreless in extra time.
"This victory means a lot to everyone in Mali,'' captain Seydou Keita said, with his nation's flag wrapped around him. "This is an emotional moment for me and this team. We did our job today as we were expected to do, we fought hard.''
Tokelo Rantie opened the scoring for South Africa in regulation with a close-range shot in the 31st minute and Keita netted the equalizer with a header in the 58th to send the match into extra time.
Midfielders Dean Furman and May Mahlangu had their shots saved by Diakite, and striker Lehlohonolo Majoro sent his shot wide for Mali to reach the semifinals a second straight time.
"Obviously there's major disappointment now,'' Furman said. "We allowed them to equalize but then we battled so hard for the rest of the game. To lose on penalties the way we did is heartbreaking.''
Cheick Diabate, Adama Tamboura and Mahamane Traore scored Mali's goals in the shootout, while Siphiwe Tshabalala was the lone South African to find the net.
"I picked my spot, I said that I was going to go there, I had practiced going there,'' Furman said. "Got to give credit to the keeper, he guessed right and saved it.''
Majoro had to score to keep the hosts alive but his shot missed way right, silencing the nearly 50,000 local supporters in Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Diakite was playing only because regular starter Mamadou Samassa was suspended after receiving yellow cards in the previous two matches. He stopped both penalty shots by diving to his right and deflecting the ball wide.
"A lot of things didn't go our way,'' South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune said. "Credit must go to their keeper.''
Mali has reached the semis for the fourth time in the last seven editions. It was eliminated by Ivory Coast last year before finishing third.
"The South African team was very tough to play against,'' Mali coach Patrice Carteron said. "My players showed high levels of concentration.''
Mali will play either Ivory Coast or Nigeria, who play their quarterfinal on Sunday in Rustenburg. Ghana beat Cape Verde 2-0 in the first quarterfinal earlier Saturday. Burkina Faso and Togo also play on Sunday.
The last time South Africa made it to the semifinals was in 2000, when it lost to eventual runner-up Nigeria. The South Africans had been second in the previous edition, in 1998, and lifted its only trophy two years before that, as hosts.
South Africa entered this year's tournament without a lot of public support after disappointing results in the buildup. A lackluster 0-0 draw against newcomer Cape Verde in the opener didn't help much. The fans came on board after improved performances in the final group matches but the team was not able to keep its run alive.
"We lost with pride, dignity and passion,'' South Africa coach Gordon Igesund said. "We have proven that we can match anybody. We played a team that is ranked third in Africa and we matched them and dominated them. There had to be a loser today, it had to be us on penalties.''
South Africa was the only non-West African team left in the tournament.
The quarterfinal was mostly even at the Moses Mabhida but South Africa got closer to the Mali net throughout. Mali pressed forward after conceding the goal but didn't threaten much. With the teams visibly tired in extra time, few chances were produced by either side.
Mali came into Saturday's match motivated by news that parts of the northern region of the country had been liberated in an ongoing conflict and were able to watch the team's previous match on television.
At last year's tournament, Mali reached the last four in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea while a coup unfolded back home. It eliminated co-host Gabon to reach the semifinals then.
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