February takes South Africa to Rio


JOHANNESBURG: Goalkeeper Jody February saved four penalties as South Africa upsets hosts Senegal on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games football tournament.

His first save came during a 0-0 third-place play-off draw and he made three more in a 3-1 shootout victory at Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar.

February, who began the eight-nation African qualifying tournament as understudy to Ricardo Goss, was hoisted aloft by jubilant teammates in recognition of his key role.

South Africa joined semi-finals winners Nigeria and Algeria as qualifiers for the Olympics, an under-23 tournament in which three over-age stars per team are permitted at the finals.

Nigeria later beat Algeria 2-1 in a final between two already qualified teams and Peter Oghenekaro Etebo bagged a brace to finish as the leading tournament scorer with five goals.

But the main attraction of the Dakar double-header was the play-off as the third and final ticket to Rio was up for grabs.

South Africa was underdogs having timidly surrendered to Algeria in a midweek semi-final while Senegal had home support and greater familiarity with the hot, humid conditions.

The Senegalese should have won as they dominated possession after a slow start and had 25 shots at goal compared to 10 by the South Africans.

But when February fouled Ismaila Sarr inside the box 16 minutes from time, the hosts failed to take advantage.

Moussa Wague had his spot-kick pushed away by February and although substitute Ibrahima Keita reacted quickest to the loose ball, his shot rebounded off the woodwork.

South Africa, beaten by Senegal in the tournament opener 14 days ago after which Goss was dropped, came closest to scoring when Gift Motupa fired into the side netting early in the second half.

February saved three shootout kicks and Senegal captain Pape Ndiaye two before Phumlani Ntshangase converted the fifth South African penalty for an unassailable lead.

Etebo converted a 14th-minute penalty after being fouled and scored the match-winner five minutes before half-time with a low shot into the corner after a solo run from the centre circle.

His five tournament goals included four penalties, including the semi-final winner against Senegal.

Algeria cancelled the first Etebo goal when Segun Oduduwa headed into his net under pressure while trying to clear a Zinedine Ferhat cross.



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