Contrasting emotions for Namibia and South Africa

There was joy and despair in equal measure in Group E at the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday as Namibia claimed a stunning 1-0 victory over powerhouse Tunisia, but South Africa missed a first half penalty to slip to 2-0 loss to Mali.

Namibia’s win was their first ever at the continental finals and was fully deserved as they spurned numerous opportunities to defeat the third-ranked Tunisians by a larger margin.

A goal from Orlando Pirates’ Deon Hotto proved the difference as he stooped to head home.

“It’s an ecstatic feeling that I can’t describe,” Namibia coach Collin Benjamin said. “I am proud to be Namibian and be a coach of these players. We were never really given a chance.

“We are just happy that we could go on the field and play a good match and win. I can only imagine what is happening in the streets of Namibia right now. This victory is dedicated to them.”

A point from their next two games should be enough for a round of 16 place, though in the last two editions three points has seen sides advance as one of the four best third-placed teams. Benjamin knows there is still work to do.

“Of course we celebrate, but tomorrow it is back to normal. Back to grinding and working hard as a team and for our people back home,” he said.

Percy Tau missed a first half penalty for South Africa as they were the better side in the opening period against Mali, but were outmuscled after the break and slipped to a loss that has them on the back foot after game one.

Despite this, Broos was positive about his team as they prepare to face Namibia in a crucial second fixture on Sunday.

“The performance of South Africa was good, and I think if we scored the penalty, we would have been good,” Broos said. “They (Mali) were more physical than the first half. This was the major difference. We lost a lot of balls and mostly because of the physical conditioning of Mali was better than us.

“So this is the difference and this is where Mali was able to change the game, not at the football playing level.

“The coach of Mali (Eric Chelle) saw what he had to do, and they were stronger on duels in the second half and we couldn’t play our game anymore.

“We lost the ball where we shouldn’t have lost it but then again, I think the performance was good, but just not good enough.”