South Africa were pushed hard but romped to a 4-1 victory over Mozambique in their 2018 COSAFA Under-17 Championships Group B clash on Sunday to head the pool going into the final round of matches.
Benson Simwanda then scored a later winner for defending champions Zambia as they claimed a 1-0 victory over Lesotho to set up a winner-takes-all clash against the South Africans in their final pool match on Tuesday.
South Africa created by far the greater number of chances against Mozambique and although there were some glaring misses, did enough to win the game comfortably in the end.
Bongolwethu Siyasi opened the scoring with a long-range screamer early on, before Motlhalosi Nare doubled the advantage after he was teed-up by Boitumelo Radiopane.
Pablo Bechardas pulled a goal back for the Young Mambas, who then applied pressure on the South African goal in search of the equaliser, but were unable to get a second goal.
Instead it was the South Africans who scored next as Thando Buthelezi embarked on a fine solo run that ended with a third goal.
Mthokozisi Balakasi added the cherry on top with a fourth in injury-time at the end of the game.
Zambia looked as though they would be left frustrated by Lesotho before their late success, but the latter had the best chance of the opening half as Tebello Lethoko was denied by a fine stop from Philip Malunga in the Young Chipolopolo goal.
Zambia’s Vincent Kalinda saw his effort cleared off the line in the second half, while Enock Sakala missed a cross with the goal gaping.
But the defining moment came with a minute left when Simwanda headed home, much to the relief of the team.
The action continues on Monday when the second round of games in Group C are played.
Malawi and Zimbabwe both lost their opening matches and must win when they meet at the Stade St Francois Xavier at 12h00 (08h00 GMT).
Malawi, who have finished third at the last two COSAFA Under-17 Championships, were edged by Angola and Zimbabwe were surprise 3-2 losers to Swaziland.
For the loser of this game, or even if it ends in a draw, it will likely end the hopes of making the semifinals, where only the top team in each pool and the best placed runner-up advance to the knockout stages.
Angola and Swaziland could take a giant step towards the next round if they end victorious when they meet at the same venue at 15h00 (11h00 GMT).
Neither of these nations have appeared in the last two editions of this competition, but could make a massive impact.
The COSAFA Under-17 Championships serve as a qualifier for the 2019 African Under-17 Championships that will be played in Tanzania, which in turn is a qualifier for the FIFA World Cup in Peru later in the year.
Mozambique 1 (Pablo Bechardas) South Africa 4 (Bongolwethu Siyasi, Motlhalosi Nare, Thando Buthelezi, Mthokozisi Balakasi)
Zambia 1 (Benson Simwanda) Lesotho 0
Malawi vs Zimbabwe (KO 12h00 local, 08h00 GMT) – Stade St Francois Xavier
Angola vs Swaziland (KO 15h00 local, 11h00 GMT) – Stade St Francois Xavier
Group A P W D L GF GA Pts
Botswana 2 2 0 0 3 1 6
Mauritius 2 1 0 1 1 1 3
Namibia 2 1 0 1 8 4 3
Seychelles 2 0 0 2 4 10 0
Group B P W D L GF GA Pts
South Africa 2 1 1 0 4 1 4
Zambia 2 1 1 0 1 0 4
Lesotho 2 0 1 1 0 1 1
Mozambique 2 0 1 1 1 4 1
Group C P W D L GF GA Pts
Swaziland 1 1 0 0 3 2 3
Angola 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Zimbabwe 1 0 0 1 2 3 0
Malawi 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
Matches Played: 10
Goals scored: 28
Biggest victory: Namibia 8 Seychelles 3 (Group A, July 19)
Most goals in a game: 11 – Namibia 8 Seychelles 3 (Group A, July 19)
4 goals – Prins Tjiueza (Namibia)
3 – Tyrin George (Namibia)
2 – Oageng Maphorisa (Botswana), Rino Pauline (Seychelles), Bandile Shabangu (Swaziland)
1 – Afandi Aboudou (Seychelles), Mthokozisi Balakasi (South Africa), Pablo Bechardas (Mozambique), John Bonomali (Zimbabwe), Thando Buthelezi (South Africa), Langelihle Dlamini (Swaziland), Edmar Kamatuka (Namibia), Jeremy Kawoa (Mauritius), Tebogo Kopelang (Botswana), Motlhalosi Nare (South Africa), Netinho (Angola), Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya (Zimbabwe), Benson Simwanda (Zambia), Bongolwethu Siyasi (South Africa), Jarrel Suzette (Seychelles)