South Africa hosted Mali in the 25th edition of the Nelson Mandela Challenge at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in PE, after sitting out previous friendlies against Zambia and Madagascar in September, due to purported xenophobic violence at the time. Brazil took their match-up with Nigeria to Singapore, while Ecuador met a Messi-less Argentina for a humdinger affair in Spain.
South Africa vs Mali (2–1)
Starting things off playing from left to right, Bafana gifted the visitor’s a goal kick inside two minutes, but shot stopper, Ronwen Williams, was up to the task of keeping the resulting shot out. The next real scare for Bafana came in the ninth minute, when Mali forward Hadi Sacko was allowed to dance around inside Bafana’s box before unleashing a goal-bound shot which, however, sailed over the crossbar.
With 24 minutes on the clock, a foul by Kiki Kouyate on Bafana midfielder Thulani Serero, saw the referee pointing to the penalty spot. Dean Furman called upon, and the right-footed midfielder’s shot was on target – grabbing him a fourth international goal in the process.
Mali had several more chances that went abegging, and on the cusp of the break, Themba Zwane was brought on for Keagan Dolly. A Thembinkosi Lorch pass from the left, found the new man in, who was able to coolly slot home and usher Bafana into the break two goals to the good.
A change to the Bafana goal started things off with Williams making way for Darren Keet. He was soon called into action in the home team’s goal as he got fingertips to a ball which denied the visitor’s an opportunity to half the deficit. South Africa get a chance of their own in 59th minute, as Grobler, is in search for his third international goal, and gets close when he meets a cross from Thembinkosi Lorch.
Unfortunately, his header is wide. It was with 15 minutes left in regulation time that Mali were finally able to pull one back, courtesy of some lax defending from Bafana, which Sekou Koita needed no second invitation to fire past Keet.
South Africa’s Kermit Erasmus tried to put the nail in the coffin with only minutes on the clock. He unleashed a left-footed high drive, which flew high and wide to the left. A 2–1 on the day was enough for Bafana to keep the Nelson Mandela Challenge cup on home soil after a thrilling, thrilling encounter, with a Mali which brought the goods on the day.
Brazil vs Nigeria (1–1)
A bright start from Brazil saw Gabriel Jesus break into the Nigeria area which needed Moses Simon to block the Manchester City man’s effort. Victor Osimhen then went close for Nigeria, forcing Ederson Ederson into a good save, before Jesus, in the 11th minute, once again broke into the The Super Eagles’ box. In the same way, it was Simon who was spurred into action to block the shot. PSG man Neymar limped off injured in the 13th minute.
The first goal came in the 35th minute of play when Rangers’ Joe Aribo latched onto a breaking ball in the box. Brazil responded with five minutes to the halftime break but nothing came from Jesus’ effort. Casemiro was fouled close to the area. Francis Uzoho lined up the wall and Coutinho struck only for the ball to zip just past the post. This was a let-off for Nigeria as the teams walked off with The Super Eagles 1–0 in front.
The second went underway and immediately and a goal-hungry Jesus takes a shot which, this time, midfielder Jamilu Collins was forced to intercept and concede the corner. The Seleção equalised shortly afterward when Casemiro fired home from close range after he was quickest to react to a Marquinhos header which had come back off the woodwork.
Jesus almost makes it two for Brazil as Uzoho saves well; tipping the ball around the post as Brazil pushed for another goal. With half an hour remaining on the clock, Collins intercepted a dangerous Alves ball as Brazil looked to turn the screw.
Casemiro crashed the ball off the crossbar, leaving Nigeria on the ropes. That same man, Casemiro, later smacked a header off the bar which Coutinho should have scored with five minutes. It was, however, not to be as the sides shared the spoils 1–1 on the night.
Ecuador vs Argentina (1–6)
The sides started brightly but it was Argentina that drew first blood in the 20th minute as Lucas Alario powered home a header from Marcos Acuna’s corner. Ecuador attempted to open up at the back in their pursuit to come back into the game, but were unfortunate as Jhon Espinoza diverted cross into his own net in the 27th minute, giving La Albiceleste a two-goal cushion.
Lionel Scaloni’s charges were awarded a penalty four minutes later, after Lautaro Martinez was brought down inside the box, which allowed Leandro Paredes to extend the lead for Albiceleste with a calm finish from 12-yards.
Ecuador started the second stanza on the front foot and they pulled a goal back four minutes in, courtesy of a brilliant free-kick from Angel Mena, which looped over the wall and sailed into the far post. However, German Pezzella restored the three-goal advantage for Argentina in the 66th minute, after heading home Paulo Dybala’s free-kick at the back post.
Nicolas Dominguez got their fifth goal with eight minutes remaining as drilled a low shot towards the bottom corner from a free-kick situation, before Lucas Ocampos rounded off the scoring with an effort from distance, ensuring La Albiceleste wrapped up a thumping win.
Kenya pipped Madagascar to a 1–0 win after the two sides collided in their FIFA International Friendly match at the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday.