Bafana Bafana’s AFCON 2017 qualification hopes lie in tatters after losing 3-1 to Mauritania on Saturday night.
Bafana Bafana trailed 1-0 at the break after Itumeleng Khune failed to hold onto a tame sixth minute free kick by Aly Abeide.
Abeide’s free kick was hit straight at the newly-appointed Bafana Bafana captain and trickled into the South African goal.
The match played at the 10 000-seater capacity Stade Olympique de Nouakchott in warm temperatures and it was the hosts who settled down faster.
Bafana Bafana failed to handle the heat and the early pressure by Mauritania and Khune’s howler meant Shakes Mashaba’s men were left playing catch up.
The bumpy pitch made it difficult for a quick, free-flowing game and the South African midfield trio of Dean Furman, Thulani Serero and Andile Jali failed to get the side moving forward with any vigour.
The hosts relied on their physicality to ensure any threat from the visitors was quickly muted.
South Africa’s best chance came when Serero put Tokelo Rantie through on goal but the Bournemouth-forward was ruled off-side.
The second half started off in similar fashion to the first as Siyabonga Zulu was sent off for a professional foul on his debut.
Bafana Bafana again struggled to increase the match tempo and Shakes Mashaba opted to haul off the ineffective Rantie and Furman for Mzikayise Mashaba and Bongani Zungu.
One of Zungu’s first touches was a wild attempt to hit Thamsanqa Gabuza’s cross into the net first time – his shot sailed well over the Mauritania goals.
Gabuza gave Bafana Bafana a lifeline in the 69th minute when he headed Anele Ngcongca’s cross into the back of the net.
With the hosts on the back foot despite their numerical advantage, Bafana Bafana struggled to get their passing game in order.
The visitors were made to pay for wasting possession when Boubacar Beyguili sent the home crowd into hysterics as he outfoxed Eric Mathoho and slotted the ball past Khune.
Khune was again beaten in the 86th minute after terrible defending from several defenders including Mathoho and Rivaldo Coetzee. The Bafana Bafana centre-backs were bamboozled by Khalil Ahmed, who ended his solo run with a cool finish past Khune.
The loss left Shakes Mashaba stranded on 22 wins as Bafana Bafana coach – a record he shares with Clive Barker.
South Africa now sit bottom of Group M in their bid to qualify for the 2017 AFCON finals.
Bafana Bafana have little time to adjust as they travel back to South Africa to tackle Senegal in the Nelson Mandela Challenge match on September 8.
The loss was South Africa’s first AFCON qualifer loss since September 2011.