Luther Singh scored a hat-trick as South Africa completed a deserved 3-1 victory over Cameroon in their opening game of Group B at the 2017 African Under-20 Championships on Monday.
South Africa top the pool after Sudan surprised the 10-men of Senegal to record a 1-1 draw in the early game at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
But it was South Africa and their array of skillful forwards that impressed most on the second day of the championship, despite being out-muscled by the powerful Central Africans.
Cameroon started the better and were ahead on 14 minutes as Eric Mbu, who plays for Philadelphia Union in the USA, headed them in front.
But the lead lasted just two minutes as South Africa won a free-kick and Singh blasted the ball past the Young Indomitable Lions keeper Junior Dande, who got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out.
Ten minutes later South Africa won a penalty when Sibongakonke Mbatha was felled in the area and Singh stepped up to score, and he completed his hat-trick just before the hour mark.
He ran on to a long clearance up-field, cleverly rounded Dande and placed the ball into the empty net.
Senegal needed a late goal to earn their 1-1 draw with Sudan, the conquerors of Nigeria in the qualifiers.
The West Africans were up against it from the 14th minute when skipper Mamadou Diarra was red-carded for a professional foul on Eid Mugadam as the Sudanese star raced into the box.
And it got worse for Joseph Koto’s fancied side just minutes later when Moussa Ba conceded a penalty as he hauled down Khaled Osman in the box and Hassan Hassan converted from the spot.
Senegal came close to an equaliser when Ibrahima Ndiaye crashed his shot against the crossbar, and despite their numerical disadvantage, it was they who were more threatening on attack.
And they got reward for their efforts with two remaining on the clock when Ibrahima Niane bundled the ball home after Sudan keeper Mohamed Saeed spilled the ball at his feet.
The next round of fixtures in Group B are on Thursday when Sudan take on Cameroon and South Africa meet Senegal.
Before then the second round of games in Group A will take place on Wednesday.
Hosts Zambia can qualify for the semifinals – and win a place at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May and June – if they defeat Mali in their second fixture at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka (kick-off 16h00 GMT).
Before then, Guinea will be desperate for victory in their second clash against Egypt (13h00 GMT) or face elimination from the tournament.