Build-up to CHAN
We played a couple of warm-up games against Morocco and Senegal, and we were dominant in both. Against Morocco we had an abundance of chances, just could not finish them, but we did win. Against Senegal, it was much of the same, until the second half when we finished every chance we got.
CHAN 2018 Tournament
We went into this tournament with half a first team side, as we were not allowed to call up foreign based players, so we were missing quite a few key players.
Game 1 - Zambia
We went down early, then pulled them back almost immediately, then we got a red card early in the second half, and they scored immediately after that. We then equalized again, and they scored straight from kickoff. And that was how the game ended.
I was disappointed with this loss, as i felt this was one of the winnable games in our group.
Game 2 - Guinea
After the loss, we needed a win in this one. We were dominant from the start and by halftime we were 2-0 up, and by the second half it was just about seeing the game out.
Nice to get the win here and we were back on track. Zambia also beat Ivory Coast, which meant that we needed at least a draw against Ivory Coast to qualify for the knockout stages.
Game 3 - Ivory Coast
Knowing we needed at least a draw, the pressure was on. Zambia had surprised everybody by beating both of us and now the two bigger teams in our group were fighting for second spot.
We went down early, and things did not look good. Then we equalized and they took the lead almost immediately after that. We had chances to score, but just could not take them, and when everything looked lost, we finally stole the draw in the 89th minute and squeaked through to book our place in the knockout rounds.
Finishing second was not the best, but it meant we avoided Nigeria and got Gabon
instead, who were without Aubameyang.
Quarter Final - Gabon
Gabon without Aubameyang, never really posed a threat and we came out of this one comfortable 2-0 winners.
Our prize for this win was a meeting with the best African side, Algeria
in the Semi Finals.
Semi-Finals - Algeria
The first half was a tight affair, with no goals. Then we scored immediately after the break, and they equalized almost immediately. The game had chances after that but neither team could score, and we had extra time. Extra time had no chances at all, and for the first time in our South Africa career, penalties was on.
We scored first, they missed.
Both teams scored next.
We missed, they scored. Penalties were tied again.
We scored, they missed. Meant if we scored we win.
We scored our final penalty. And a spot in the final for a second time in a row was booked.
We would play Zambia
in the final, for a chance at redemption after our group stage loss.
The Final - Zambia
We scored early, and looked like we were on for a defense of our crown, then we got a stupid 18 minute red card, and the battle was on. We held on for most of the game, but conceded a late goal and we had extra time for a second match in a row.
Our teams fitness levels was extremely bad, as back to back extra times is never nice. I had to substitute my RB early in the second half as he was on 35% fitness, with most of the rest of my team in the 40's% going into extra time. The substitute RB had a terrible time, as he was at fault for the late second half goal, and was at fault for both goals we conceded in extra time.
Fitness and a stupid early red card, caused our downfall in this final. We should have won in regulation time, but we through it away. Disappointed not to have defended our title, but the South African FA just wanted us to be competitive and i think we did that.