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?