In a highly anticipated Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) opener, South Africa's Bafana Bafana faced a formidable challenge against Mali.
The clash unfolded on Tuesday night at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium, marking the commencement of Bafana Bafana‘s quest for continental glory.
Despite early opportunities and a dramatic penalty decision, the night ended in disappointment for South Africa as Mali secured a 2-0 victory.
Let's delve into the key moments and the road ahead for the Bafana Bafana squad.
South Africa vs. Mali: As it happened
Bafana Bafana's penalty drama
The first half saw a moment of high tension as South Africa was awarded a penalty in the 18th minute. Evidence Makgopa drew the foul in the box, confirmed by VAR.
Percy Tau, entrusted with the penalty, faced a pivotal moment.
Unfortunately for Bafana Bafana, Tau's spot kick soared over the crossbar, leaving the first half deadlocked in a goalless draw.
The missed opportunity set the tone for a challenging encounter.
Mali takes the lead
The second half witnessed Mali breaking the deadlock in the 60th minute.
Following a free kick, Koita unleashed a powerful shot that struck the underside of the bar and bounced just in front of the goal line.
Mali's captain, Hamari Traore, exhibited sharp reflexes, reaching the ball ahead of any South African defender, and tapped it into the net, granting Mali a crucial lead at 1-0.
Mali doubles the advantage
The woes for Bafana Bafana continued in the 66th minute when Sinayoko capitalized on a perfect through ball.
Navigating into the South African box, he skillfully evaded a defender's challenge, toeing the ball past the keeper and into the far side of the goal.
The 2-0 scoreline reflected Bafana Bafana's struggle to contain Mali's attacking prowess.
Bafana Bafana's goal-scoring drought: A decade of struggle haunts AFCON ambitions
The defeat amplifies Bafana Bafana's struggle in front of goal, as they have not managed to score more than one goal in their last nine AFCON matches.
The last instance of scoring at least twice dates back over a decade, in a 2-2 draw against Morocco during the 2013 group stages.
The goal-scoring challenge poses a significant hurdle for the South African squad in their pursuit of success in the tournament.
With this defeat, Bafana Bafana finds themselves at the bottom of Group E with 0 points, while Mali leads with 3 points.
The next challenge for South Africa is against Namibia, currently sitting in second place after securing a 1-0 victory over Tunisia.
Hugo Broos' men will be eager to secure their first three points in the competition and revitalize their AFCON campaign.
While the AFCON opener against Mali delivered a setback for Bafana Bafana, the tournament's unpredictable nature leaves ample room for redemption.
As they regroup for the upcoming clash against Namibia, the South African squad under Hugo Broos will be determined to overcome challenges, refine their strategies, and reignite their pursuit of glory in the African football showcase.
This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago