South Africa’s Africa Cup of Nations qualification hopes are hanging by a thread after they suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at the hands of Mauritania.
Having been held to a 0-0 home draw by Gambia in their first qualifier, the pressure was on the visitors to get their campaign back on track with a victory over the unfancied hosts in Nouakchott.
But instead they fell behind as early as the sixth minute when goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune fumbled Aly Abeide’s free-kick into the net.
South Africa then lost Siyabonga Zulu to a straight red card early in the second-half after the debutant was deemed to have committed a professional foul, but still managed to get themselves back on level terms on 68 minutes.
Anele Ngcongca provided the cross and the lively Thamsanqa Gabuza got in front of the home goalkeeper to nod home.
That proved to be a temporary reprieve for Shakes Mashaba’s men, however, as Boubacar Beyguili restored Mauritania’s lead on 79 minutes and Moulaye Ahmed sealed a famous victory for the hosts with a superb solo effort four minutes from time.
Mauritania have never qualified for the Cup of Nations, but are now in serious contention to emerge from Group M, especially as they host struggling Gambia next.
South Africa, meanwhile, face the daunting prospect of having to take three points from March’s trip to Cameroon if they are stand any chance of making it to the finals in Gabon.
And they well may head into that game under a new coach with the pressure on Mashaba sure to increase in the wake of this latest setback.