2013 African Cup of Nations: 6 Things We Learned from South Africa vs. Mali

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2013 African Cup of Nations: 6 Things We Learned from South Africa vs. Mali
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These two underperforming teams played out an enthralling contest in Durban on Saturday night

As this year’s African Cup of Nations rampaged into the pulsating knockout stages, Mali took on hosts—and one of the pre-tournament favourites—South Africa on Saturday night in Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Both teams looked to use this tie as a statement of intent about what they were capable of. A semifinal against Nigeria or Ivory Coast was at stake, as Durban played host to an end-to-end duel.

With South Africa having topped Group A with two wins and a draw, the home crowd were confident that Bafana Bafana could progress and potentially regain the crown which has eluded them since 1996. As Mali laboured to a second-place finish in Group B, having only scored two goals, a victory against the hosts looked unlikely.

These two teams met at the same stage in the 2002 tournament.  Mali were victors on that occasion, with les Aigles winning 2-0. This year's edition was equally captivating: a tense 1-1 draw which was eventually settled by the roulette of a penalty shootout.

Ultimately, it was South Africa who blinked first, after they saw two penalties saved and one blasted wide. Mali held their nerve and out-maneuvered their opposition from 12 yards. But what did we learn from this matchup?

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