The COSAFA Cup Plate semifinals on Wednesday contain some of the heavyweights of the continent in what will be two fascinating match-ups at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
West African guest nation Ghana take on defending COSAFA Cup champions Zambia (kick-off 17h00 local; 15h00 GMT), while hosts South Africa entertain Malawi (kick-off 19h30 local; 17h30 GMT).
Few would have predicted that line-up ahead of the quarterfinal matches played Sunday and Monday, but it should make for some rich entertainment for fans.
Ghana were undone by Madagascar 2-1 in their Last 8 clash, conceding a magnificent goal in the 90th minute as the islanders continued their fabulous campaign.
“That is football, you can do whatever you can. But conceding such a goal at such an hour – there is nothing you can do about it. Congratulations to Madagascar,” Ghana coach Maxwell Konadu said.
“It wasn’t all that bad. I can’t say we played badly at all. We were just unfortunate that we conceded a goal that was not expected.”
Opponents Zambia were equally shocked to lose their quarterfinal on penalties to Namibia.
It was not in the script for coach Honour Janza, who admitted before the competition started that the side were under pressure to win the tournament.
Now they are under pressure to make sure they at least get a third game in South Africa by winning their Plate semifinal.
South Africa are in a similar boat after they lost on penalties to Botswana on Sunday to ensure there would be no third regional triumph for Bafana Bafana.
“We dominated the match throughout the 90 minutes but once the match went to penalties, which is a lottery, Botswana scored their penalties and we missed at the crucial moments,” Mashaba lamented.
“But I wouldn’t like to call it a disaster as some people want to latch at such ‘opportunities’. We were the better team throughout the 90 minutes and Botswana were playing for penalties and once the match went into penalties, it was anyone’s game.
“Losing on penalties is always a tough and disappointing thing especially when you have been the better team during the regulation time but that is part of the game. We need to work on our finishing. We lacked the cutting edge upfront.
“But that was also caused by stage fright from most of the youngsters whom we are eyeing as part of the bigger Bafana Bafana pool.”
Malawi were the third team in the quarterfinals to lose in a penalty shoot-out and in dramatic fashion too as they scored two own goals to Mozambique in the game.
The second was with virtually the last kick of the game, and they then also fell short in the shoot-out.
The winner of the COSAFA Cup 2015 Plate semifinals will appear in Friday’s final at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
The Plate competition was introduced in 2013 to allow those sides who lost in the quarterfinals more opportunity to play. The inaugural Plate competition was won by Mozambique, who defeated Angola in the final.