SAfrica celebrates draw, misses out on African Cup
South Africa prematurely celebrated a 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone wrongly thinking it had qualified for next year's African Cup of Nations while Group G rival Niger progressed instead.
South African players danced for fans at the Mbombela Stadium presuming the result - coupled with Niger's 3-0 loss in Egypt - meant Bafana Bafana would go through as group winner on goal difference after it, Niger and Sierra Leone had finished equal on nine points.
But head-to-head results between tied teams decides who qualifies for the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, which put Niger though because of its better record against South Africa and Sierra Leone.
Bafana players went on a lap of honor after the final whistle, dancing in formation in front of cheering fans while coach Pitso Mosimane hugged members of his technical team.
But the South Africans soon learned they would miss out on their second straight Cup of Nations after competition rules confirmed Niger's progress to its first-ever African championship.
Despite celebrating, even Mosimane was unsure of his team's fortunes as Niger finished with six points to South Africa and Sierra Leone's five points from head-to-head matches concerning the three.
''Let's hear what CAF (the Confederation of African Football) says,'' Mosimane said in a TV interview. ''Did we qualify? What do you think? If we've qualified I'm very happy. I don't know.''
With Egypt dominating Niger in Cairo, South Africa played defensively in the second half of a scrappy match believing a draw would be sufficient.
Captain Siphiwe Tshabalala had two opportunities to put the hosts ahead but shot wide in the 62nd minute before Sierra Leone goalkeeper Christian Caulker pushed a late free kick away.
In between, South Africa 'keeper Itumeleng Khune tipped Sheriff Suma's shot over the bar to preserve a draw.