Cote d'Ivoire ensured a clean sweep for West Africa at the African U-17 Championship when they scored in the dying minutes to beat a wasteful South African side 1-0 in the Third-Place Play Off at the Independence Stadium on Saturday.
Serge Konan Kouadio scored the all-important goal on 86 minutes after converting an incisive pass from substitute Vamara Diarra, hitting a hard one to South African keeper Thapelo Mabokgwane's right.
The Amajimbos had lost loads of opportunities in the opening half, which they completely dominated. But it was the Ivorians who were presented the best chance of the first stanza after goalkeeper Thapelo Mabokggwane had upended a goal bound Ismael Fofana to concede a penalty.
But Ali Keita saw his well-struck penalty kick punched away by Mabokgwane, and the rebound cleared out of danger.
The second half took a similar pattern as both teams made concerted efforts to break the deadlock. Thrice within the first quarter the South African attack penetrated the Ivorien rear with Mkhanyiseli Siwahla, Tumelo Nhlapo and Amos Sibeko coming close.
Cote d'Ivoire also had their share of opportunities, as leading marksman Fofana spearheaded a quick response from the junior Elephants.
Just after the hour South Africa were on the counter again, but a well-placed Stephen Faba missed a sitter after being set up from the left side by the hard working Siwahla.
As the Amajimbos pushed forward for the opening goal, the Ivoriens took their time, and it was from a counter offensive that substitute midfielder Vamara Diarra waltzed his way through a sea of defenders to lay on for Serge Kouadio to finish off.
The Amajimbos fought back gamely and made one last gasp effort to save the day, but time flew away too soon, and South African hopes faded into the night.
Coach of the Ivorian side, Francois Bohe expressed his joy at grabbing a ticket to the world championship in Peru. “We came here with the aim of getting a berth to the world cup, and I am happy we achieved that aim tonight. The South African team are a good side, but in the game of football, one side has to win,” he said.
South African coach Serame Letsoaka exhibited the good spirit of sportsmanship by congratulating his counterpart on his victory.
“I am not bitter about our failure to get a ticket to Peru. We paid the supreme price for missing so many chances, but let me say the experience has been good for us. I congratulate the Ivorians for their victory tonight,” he said.