Siyanda Xulu will be proud of South Africa’s “dream” Africa Cup of Nations campaign no matter what happens in their third-place showdown with DR Congo.
Bafana Bafana will go head-to-head with the Leopards in Abidjan on Saturday evening with a bronze medal at stake, disappointed not to have made it to the final but happy to have come so close.
Hugo Broos’ men made it to within touching distance of the showcase game on Wednesday evening before eventually going down 4-2 on penalties to Nigeria after a 1-1 extra-time draw in the last four.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗢𝗠𝗘𝗡𝗧. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗙𝗜𝗡𝗔𝗟𝗘.
Nigeria Côte d’Ivoire
— CAF (@CAF_Online) February 7, 2024
Defender Xulu told a press conference: “We had our own goal as a team. We wanted to go as far as we could.
“We know very well of our quality and especially from the coach who is one person who has always believed in us as a team.
“To go this far was our objective. Reaching the semi-final is a dream. Yes, we wanted to take it home, but we couldn’t, but we can be proud of the performance.”
South Africa’s campaign started in unpromising fashion when they went down 2-0 to Mali in their opening game, but they emerged from Group E as runners-up and dispensed with World Cup semi-finalists Morocco and Cape Verde before meeting their match in Nigeria.
That 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 moment. 🪄
— CAF (@CAF_Online) February 8, 2024
Broos admitted the game would represent a mental battle for both teams.
He said: “We played a very good game against Nigeria. It was a great performance and we showed that we are a great team again.
“When you exit after 120 minutes, it’s always a huge disappointment. When you play so well, the disappointment is so big.
“The game tomorrow is special. It depends a bit on which team will be mentally recovered because also for DRC, it was difficult to lose like that.”
— CAF (@CAF_Online) February 9, 2024
DR Congo’s chances of making it to the final were ended by a 1-0 defeat by hosts Ivory Coast, and they will head into the play-off having won only one of the six games they have played to date inside 90 minutes after drawing all three of their Group F Fixtures and beating Egypt on penalties in the last 16.
Defender Dylan Batubinsika said: “We have a mixture of feelings with the elimination, but our ambition is to go and get this medal.
“We have to stay mobilised to at least finish in third place.”