South Africa/Ghana: Why Bafana Lost in Group C

Andre Ayew of Ghana reacts after scoring the winning goal, taking the Black Stars through to the quarter-finals at the Africa Cup of Nations.

If you had to pick two sides to emerge from Group C at the African Nations Cup prior to the tournament the smart money would have been on Algeria and Ghana.

In a pool that was expected to be evenly contested, the pair's recent experiences at the World Cup in Brazil, and their greater quality through the squad made them favourites.

And with two wins each in the pool phase, there is little doubt they deserved to go through.

South Africa were at times excellent, but hampered by naivety in defence and a coach in Shakes Mashaba who seemed unsure of his best XI and too fond of tinkering.

To use three goalkeepers in as many matches at the tournament is almost laughable, allowing none to settle in.

Mashaba will claim he was "giving everybody a chance" as he is fond of doing, but this is not a junior tournament or run of friendlies where such selections can be appropriate – this is Africa's biggest stage.

South Africa took the lead in all three of their games, but faded badly in the final 20 minutes as the pressure took its toll.

They were tactically out-thought and punished – although there are still matches to come tonight in Group D, it is unlikely any side in the competition will concede more than the six goals they shipped in three games.

"We need to go back to our basics of playing football, when to do things, how to do them, and where to do them," Mashaba said. "We need that ability to kill off a game, that is one of the things I am talking about when we say the basics.

"We needed to take our time, but we were knocking it back to them and that's where the problem was coming from."

Senegal too showed potential, but were ultimately undone by the clever Algerians in their final match.

The north Africans showed why they should be favourites to lift this title with a superbly organised display and excellent finishing ability.

Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff felt his side were fortunate in the Senegal game, but they were comfortable in the end and his words are likely more in the hope his players can lift their game further.

"We are not the champions and if we want to become champion, then we must improve," he said.

Senegal coach Alain Giresse suggested there would be a major shake-up of the side that would likely not involve him in the future.

"I am out of contract. My contract has finished. The road ends here for Senegal," he said. "There will be a lot of changes in and around the team. What happens next I don't know, but I know what I am going to do."

Ghana coach Avram Grant, on his first assignment with the team, will have felt a mixture of relief and joy as his side came from third to top the pool in the final round of games.

"We have finished first in the group of death, which is not bad," he told reporters. "After losing the first match we showed great attitude in the second and continued along the same lines."

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