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Team SA pay the price for squandered penalty in dramatic Olympics defeat against France

South Africa’s Repo Malepe and teammates look dejected after losing to France at the Olympics. Picture: Molly Darlington/Reuters

South Africa’s Repo Malepe and teammates look dejected after losing to France at the Olympics. Picture: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Published Jul 25, 2021


CAPE TOWN - South Africa's squandered penalty contributed to their dramatic 4-3 defeat against France in their second Tokyo Olympics Group A match at the Saitama Stadium, Japan, on Sunday.

It appeared South Africa had done enough to secure their first win in Tokyo after leading for most of the way, but France staged a gallant come-from-behind victory with two goals in four minutes at the death.

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It was a devastating result for the South Africans after a delightful first-half performance and could have been 2-0 up by the time Peru referee Kevin Ortega sounded the halftime whistle. Instead, the opening half ended goalless.

Straight from the kick-off, South Africa showed excellent touches with a crisp inter-passing game. At times, though, South Africa's lacked a sense of urgency as France's defence battled to contain the attacks.

In the 17th minute, South Africa were within a whisker of scoring but for the brilliance of French goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni. Luther Singh cracked a curling free-kick from the edge of the penalty area, and the ball had ‘goal’ written all over it as it headed for the top corner of the net. Instead, Bernardoni pulled off an acrobatic save.

Evidence Makgopa, South Africa's lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, produced the shot of the first half with a cracking volley, but it was held out by the upright, in the 22nd minute.

Two minutes, South Africa spurned another gilt-edged scoring chance when Bernardoni again rescued France. This time he blocked midfielder Kobamelo Kodisang's scoring effort, plumb in front of goal.

A telling counter just ahead of the half-hour mark, saw France exploit a moment of weakness in South Africa's central defence. French captain and striker André-Pierre Gignac streaked through a gap and scored after rounding Ronwen Williams, the SA goalkeeper. However, Gignac was ruled offside.

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Five minutes ahead of halftime, South Africa should have taken the lead from the penalty spot after France's defensive midfielder Lucas Tousart fouled Kodisang. Singh's powerful shot crashed off the upright.

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The opening 12 minutes of the second half produced two goals in the space of four minutes. First, Kodisang scored to give South Africa a deserved lead in the 53rd minute. Next, Gignac equalised after South Africa failed to clear the ball from their penalty area.

As the second half wore on, South Africa secured a glut of possession but did not look like they could undo the stalemate. They enjoyed a host of runs to the French goalmouth without setting up real scoring chances.

All that changed in the 73rd minute when Kodisang rounded the defence out on the right flank. His goalmouth cross was met by Makgopa who produced a deft touch to flick the ball past the outstretched hands of Bernardoni.

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By this time, South Africa had done enough to secure a winning result, but a defence lapse five minutes later saw Gignac grab the equaliser for the second time in the match.

In the final eight minutes, the score advanced from 2-2 to 3-3. First Teboho Mokoena scored, and then Gignac completed his hattrick from the 'spot' after Williams was blown up for a foul in front of his goals.

Teji Savanier gave France a 4-3 lead in added injury time after the team's three over-age players including 2018 Fifa World Cup winner Florian Thauvin who helped the team to produce a matchwinning final burst.