A three-way tie and mass confusion about tiebreaker rules led to bizarre scenes Saturday in Nelspruit, South Africa. The Guardian reports the South African team’s 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone led the hosts to believe it had qualified for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
South Africa players and coaches even danced for the crowd and performed a lap of honor in front of the home fans. Fans and journalists alike also believed the draw was enough to ensure qualification to next year’s tournament in Equatorial Guinea.
Unfortunately for the “Bafana Bafana” — as South Africa’s national team is commonly known — the Confederation of African Football (CAF) rules state that when two or more teams are level on points, the first tiebreaker is the number of points won in head-to-head performance. This means that outsiders Niger qualified from the group with six points, turning South African jubilation into despair.
It is common in world soccer to use goal-difference as the first tiebreaker in such scenarios. South Africa would have qualified if that system was in use.
Head coach Pitso Mosimane even admitted that he told his team to play for a draw, believing a point would ensure qualification. There are calls for his firing or resignation in the South African media.
This is a clear case of one of two things. Either the soccer gods truly don’t like the ugly and frowned upon time-wasting shenanigans of the Bafana Bafana, or the devil truly is in the details.
See the video below for South Africa’s jubilant celebrations.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/saltytheseal