South Africa’s National Under-20 (Amajita) held hosts Niger to a 1-1 draw in the opening of the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations at the Seyni Kounché Stadium in Niamey on Saturday.
The national juniors gave a solid performance against the hosts who had the 12th man on their side.
The Seyni Kounché Stadium was packed to the rafters, with the president of West African country, Issoufou Mahamadou, having graced the opening match with his presence.
In his starting lineup, Amajita coach Thabo Senong played without his captain Khulekani Kubheka who was suspended following the two yellow cards he got during the AFCON qualifying rounds.
Centre-back Givemore Khupe was entrusted with that leadership role in his absence, and gave a good performance in marshalling his defensive line to protect their goalmouth.
Kubheka only got a one-match ban, and will be available for selection in Amajita’s remaining two group matches.
In the first half, Niger struggled massively to break past South Africa’s resolute defense. Their goal came only in the 64thminute where Abdoul Amoustapha struck the ball into the back of the net, following a beautiful interplay with his fellow teammates inside Amajita’s 18-yard box before he finished the shot.
Amajita responded immediately to that lead by a positive play whenever they pressed forward.
Their hard work and efforts up in the final third were later rewarded when Nkosingiphile Ngcobo’s delivery into the 16-yard box found Siphesihle Mkhize who scored the equalized with a superb header in the 71st minute.
Mkhize came in as a tactical substitute for Luke Le Roux in the 55thminute.
Amajita will now face Nigeria in their second group match on 5 February 2019 at the very same venue.