South Africa went into their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) quarter-final against Nigeria full of optimism after their shock win over Egypt, but after levelling matters in the second half courtesy of a header from Bongani Zungu, Nigeria capitalised on a keeping mistake to steal victory at the death.
South Africa star, Bongani Zungu was disappointed with their defeat at the hands of the Super Eagles of Nigeria on Wednesday evening. The 26-year-old was dejected after Bafana Bafana exited Afcon 2019.
But to the surprise of Nigerian fans the former Mamelodi Sundowns believed they should have won the game revealing that they were unlucky to be on the losing side. Nigeria were the better side in the first 45 minutes but Zungu scored his second goal of the tournament after VAR had to be consulted for the equaliser.
“First of all, a very disappointing result for us,” Zungu told SuperSportTV. “First half we gave them a lot of respect. Second half, the coach told us to press them high and I think we did quite good and we were moving the ball well. “I felt like we were going to score, and when we scored the goal we were in the game, but unfortunately, we lost concentration in the end.
“It’s very disappointing, we are sad, but I am very proud of the team. We fought hard, we didn’t start the tournament good, but we should have won this one. But it’s part of the game.
After Stuart Baxter’s side was praised for their performance in the Round of 16 when they defeated the host nation, they were tame upfront by Nigeria defence as they failed to threaten Daniel Akpeyi in goal in a match Zungu believed they should have won.
“We had a good game plan, but I feel in the first half we gave them a lot of respect, we had to press them high, so their centre backs do not play the diagonal ball to Musa and the other winger, but as I said in the second half we did well,” he explained. “We got back to the game, we moved the ball well. We closed them down, we put them under pressure, but we just lost concentration. I think that’s where the game was [decided]. We have to now go back to the drawing board. It’s very disappointing.”
While defeat was hard to soak for the France-based midfielder, Zungu remains optimistic that the current generation of South African players are headed in the right direction.
“Personally, I am grateful because I came from a very long injury [layoff]. “I’m grateful that the coach called me to the squad when a lot of people were questioning it, and I feel I did my best,” he said.
“I feel the whole team did our best. We didn’t start the tournament good and it also didn’t end good. “We’ve got a very good team, with some very good young players. The future is bright for Bafana Bafana. We look forward to more competitions and hopefully we will grow from this,” the former Mamelodi Sundowns player concluded.
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