AFCON 2023: South Africa battle DR Congo for bronze medal


The stage was set for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations third-place playoff between South Africa and Congo DR at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium on a Saturday afternoon.

Both teams, nursing the wounds of semi-final defeats, prepared to face off. Bafana Bafana, after a valiant effort against Nigeria that ended in a penalty shootout loss, and the Leopards, who fell to the tournament hosts Ivory Coast.

The match promised to be a test of resilience and determination, as both sides sought redemption after their respective disappointments.

South Africa, having endured the mental and physical toll of extra time in the quarterfinals and semis, wondered what reserves they had left in the tank for the third-place clash.

Under the guidance of coach Hugo Broos, they had shown tactical adaptability and cohesion against Nigeria, particularly with their switch to a back three in the previous match.

Despite their commendable performance, they fell short in the penalty shootout, unable to capitalize on opportunities created during regular time and extra time.

As they prepared to face Congo DR, there were questions about their ability to bounce back from the heartbreak of the semi-final defeat and muster the energy for one last push in the tournament.

On the other side, Congo DR, under the stewardship of Sebastien Desabre, aimed to shake off the disappointment of their loss to Ivory Coast in the semi-finals.

Their journey to the third-place playoff had been marked by ups and downs, including a narrow defeat to the Elephants courtesy of an unorthodox goal by Sebastien Haller.

Despite their setbacks, the Leopards remained determined to end their AFCON campaign on a positive note and secure a podium finish.

Desabre looked to his key players, including Chancel Mbemba, Gedeon Kalulu, Arthur Masuaku, and Samuel Moutoussamy, to deliver one final performance in the tournament.

The clash between South Africa and Congo DR promised to be a battle of tactics, with both coaches weighing their options and making strategic decisions to outwit their opponents.

Broos considered reverting to a back four formation, opting for stability and defensive solidity against Congo DR’s attacking threat.

Players like Siyanda Xulu and Gael Kakuta were expected to play crucial roles for their respective teams, providing leadership and inspiration on the field.

As the teams took to the pitch, the fans braced themselves for an intense encounter, knowing that both sides would leave everything on the field in pursuit of victory.

The history between the two nations added an extra layer of intrigue to the match, with each team eager to assert their dominance and claim bragging rights in the continental competition.

With the stakes high and pride on the line, the stage was set for an epic showdown between South Africa and Congo DR in the battle for third place at the Africa Cup of Nations.

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