South Africa took third place at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in the Ivory Coast when they edged the Democratic Republic of Congo 6-5 on penalties after a goalless draw at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium on Saturday.
South Africa midfielder Teboho Mokoena hit the outside of the post with the first kick after which the next eight efforts were all successful, leaving Congo DR captain Chancel Mbemba needing to score to win the contest.
But South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saved Mbemba’s effort was saved, taking the shootout into sudden death.
Williams then saved again from Meschak Elia to win the tie.
“This was an exhausted team today, of South Africa,” coach Hugo Broos said before pointing to his team’s difficult schedule. “We were not fresh. But when you see the mentality in that group, they fight for it till the last second of the game. There were players who nearly fell from fatigue but still weren’t done.”
No extra time was played in the bronze medal match, which the Congolese dominated despite proving poor in front of goal.
Silas Katompa had two glaring chances to put them ahead, first in the eighth minute when free on the left with just Williams to beat, but his hesitation allowed the keeper to grab the ball at his feet.
When Williams dropped a high ball in his box midway through the second half, without any pressure on him, Katompa had an even easier chance but shot into the side netting.
Fifteen minutes from the end, Congo DR striker Simon Banza also had clear sight on goal but botched his effort from point blank range.
Substitute Fiston Mayele did well to bring a long ball down on his chest and get goalside of his marker but he, too, missed as his effort in the 89th minute went across the face of goal.
“Congo was better than us, Congo had more chances than us. But again if you fight for it like my players did today, I think they deserve it and I’m very proud of them,” Broos said.
South Africa, who lost on penalties after extra time in Wednesday’s semi-final to Nigeria, looked tired as they made only three changes to their line-up, while Congo DR gave an opportunity to all their reserves with nine changes from their midweek loss to the Ivory Coast.
On Sunday, hosts Ivory Coast take on Nigeria in Abidjan to decide the continental title.
Information from Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.