Two contentious refereeing decisions were the sticking points in the South African U-23’s 3-0 thrashing by Egypt in the semifinal of the ongoing age-limit Afcon tournament on Tuesday night.
Coach David Notoane’s side had done well to hold the hosts for nearly an hour but a penalty call for a handball that never was set the tone for Egypt on their way to the final against Ivory Coast on Friday – and an automatic qualification for the Olympic Games in Japan next year.
At that point, South Africa had created a number of chances in a game the young Pharoahs enjoyed strong backing from a near-capacity crowd at the imposing Cairo International Stadium.
But Senegal referee Daouda Gueye delivered the first spoiler when he pointed to the spot in the 53rd minute despite the ball from a cross having hit South African defender Thendo Mukumela on the arm outside the box.
Later in the game, Gueye also denied South Africa what appeared like a legitimate foul on Kamohelo Mahlatsi inside the box but the match official ruled that incident happened outside and awarded a freekick instead.
“It was a very difficult game for us … The turning point was the penalty decision. I had a look at it [the incident] and it happened outside the box. But that’s football …” said Notoane at the post-match conference.
Despite the setback, South Africa will have another crack at a last chance to qualify for Tokyo in the third-place play-off against Ghana on Friday.
The winner will join Egypt and Ivory Coast as Africa’s three representatives in the men’s football tournament at the Tokyo Games.
The Ghanaians lost 3-2 on penalties to Ivory Coast after their game ended in 2-2 stalemate.
Watch the SA-Egypt highlights of the game here but CAF are not showing the controversial decisions.