By Mo Allie
A familiar failing of South African football came back to haunt the Olympic team as their inability to convert their chances saw them slump to a 1-0 defeat against Denmark at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.
The result leaves South Africa’s hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals by a thread as they now face a must-win last group game against Iraq in Sao Paulo on Wednesday night while also hoping for a favourable result in the Brazil-Denmark clash.
After surviving early scares when first Emil Larssen fired wide and an unmarked Jens Jonsson headed over the bar from close range, South Africa had chances of their own to grab a vital early goal.
Gift Motupa was denied by a brilliant one-handed save from Denmark goalkeeper Jeppe Hojberg, whose heroics played a major part in his team’s hard-fought win.
Both Motupa and the impressive Keagan Dolly, with a powerful long-range effort, were unfortunate not to break the deadlock when their efforts rattled the crossbar, although the former should have done better when he had the goal at his mercy.
The introduction of Menzi Masuku for defender Tebogo Moerane at the start of the second half gave South Africa a greater attacking thrust but it was substitute Robert Skov who got the all-important goal in the 69th minute.
Capitalising on hesitant defending by Erick Mathoho and Rivaldo Coetzee in the heart of the defence, Skov found space to fire a powerful, low shot from close range that beat Itumeleng Khune at the near post to give the Danes a precious 1-0 advantage.
That score energized the Scandinavians who nearly doubled their lead a minute later when captain Lasse Vibe dragged his shot wide.
Owen da Gama’s side’s domination of territory and possession in the final quarter of the game proved fruitless as they either failed to hit the target or simply couldn’t beat the irrepressible Hojberg who denied Motupa with another fine save 10 minutes from the end while Dolly’s late strike went agonizingly wide.
After the joy of their goalless draw against Brazil in their opening game, South Africa now have to regroup quickly if they are to progress to the quarter finals and set up a possible date with Nigeria who booked their place in the next round with a 1-0 win over Sweden.