South Africa bowed out of the FIFA U20 World Cup with their heads held high following a gutsy performance in their final Group D match played at the Inchion stadium on Saturday. Amajita gave it their all in a 0-0 stalemate against the group leaders who are through to the next round of the competition.
South Africa came into the match with very limited chance of progression following their 2-1 loss to Japan in their opening match as well as a disappointing 2-0 loss to Italy on Wednesday.
However, the Thabo Senong led Amajita still had pride to play for and dominated play against the more fancied South American champions.
Senong made three changes to the starting line up from Wednesday, giving Teboho Mokoena and Masilakhe Phohlongo the nod in the attacking four while Thendo Mukhumela came back into defence.
The changes in attack seemed to reap rewards as Amajita were able to get into their quick passing and off the ball movements which saw Uruguay chasing shadows for most part of the match.
Uruguay were the first to ask questions as early as the third minute when Federico Valverde’s ambitious effort from far out was of no threat to Amajita keeper, Mondli Mpoto. A few minutes later, it was Uruguay’s striker, Agustin Canobbio testing Mpoto after connecting with a delightful cross from the right but his header was made difficult by the advancing keeper.
Amajita continued probing in their opponents’ defence and almost got an answer in the 30th minute after an appetising cross from Sithembiso Mbatha almost found the on running Mokoena but the midfielder couldn’t make it on time to connect for the easy tap in.
South Africa bossed the match throughout the opening half but the resolute defence from Uruguay did well to deal with the threat of the quick South Africans.
Coming into the second stanza, Uruguay almost caught South Africa’s defence off guard in the opening seconds after Canobbio found himself unmarked in the box but his shot went just wide to the relief of Mpoto.
However, South Africa took control of the game again with good build ups leading to their talisman, Luther Singh who played as the lone striker. The Portugal based forward was unlucky not to find the opener in the 50th minute after his well taken free kick rattled off the post with the keeper well beaten.
Singh was back in the picture again with a free kick from the very same spot as he pulled the trigger again but his effort that was parried over the bar.
Even with time running out and realising their World Cup hopes fading away, South Africa continued to push forward in search of a goal.
Mbatha should have done better in the 80th minute after a long ball from Mukhumela found him one on one with the keeper but the nippy forward failed to direct his shot with pressure from the Uruguay defence.
Again, it was Mbatha in referee’s optional time who could have found the back of the net after a good delivery from Singh but his effort was thwarted by the keeper.