South Africa coach Stuart Baxter hailed his players for their tactical discipline after they engineered the biggest shock of the 2019 Cup of Nations, with a 1-0 defeat of the hosts Egypt in front of more than 70,000 partisans.
South Africa went into the encounter as the underdogs after losing two of their three group stage matches, but still qualified for the knockout stages with just a single goal and three points.
However, they played their hearts out in front of a packed Cairo International Stadium on Saturday, and broke the hearts of millions of Egyptian football fans when Thembinkosi Lorch scored the winner in the 85th minute of the encounter.
“My players had to play in a very brave way,” said Baxter. “They had to press high against a good Egypt team.
“But that was the only way we could win the game because if we allowed them to build possession and get the ball into their best players, then we would have massive problems.”
Egypt, who won Group A without conceding a goal in their three victories, were expected to ease past South Africa.
There were scares for South Africa. Mo Salah twice teed up teammates who were through on goal but failed to hit the target.
Bafana Bafana were heavily criticised for their below-par performances in the Group Stage, but some how they just had to be strong as professional players and do their talking on the field of play.
“It was difficult for my front players,” Baxter said. “Because I asked them to press high and screen Egypt’s through passes into their midfield players and the strikers. It was a difficult job but they did it very well.”
South Africa were applauded off the field by the crestfallen Egypt. Bafana Bafana will take on Nigeria on 10 July at the Cairo International Stadium for a place in the semi-final.