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France Fight Back To Break SA Hearts

South Africa led three times but fell to a 4-3 defeat in their game against France at the Olympic Games at the Saitama Stadium on Sunday morning.

David Notoane made three changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Japan in their opening game, with a more offensive line-up selected, notably Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Kobamelo Kodisang starting.

In the third minute Teji Savanier tried from a long range free kick but Ronwen Williams pulled off a simple save. Three minutes later a deflected effort from Florian Thauvin went just wide of the goal.

But while those early chances fell for France, it was a much better start for South Africa, and Luther Singh came close to scoring from a free kick in the 15th minute, but Paul Bernardoni pulled off a good save. Two minutes later Bernardoni was back in the action as he got down well to stop a shot from Evidence Makgopa.

Makgopa went close in the 23rd minute, as his excellent first time shot from a Singh pass struck the upright,  South Africa inches away from taking the lead.

Two minutes later Kodisang dribbled into the box and forced a save from Bernardoni, as confidence began to grow in Notoane’s team, while Ngcobo shot over a minute later. Singh shot wide in the 27th minute. 

France thought they were in the lead in the 29th minute, but captain Andre-Pierre Gignac was off-side before he put the ball in the back of the net. Three minutes later Gignac’s free kick attempt was saved by Williams.

A penalty was awarded to South Africa in the 40th minute when Lucas Tousart brought down Kodisang in the box. Singh stepped up to take the shot, but his shot struck the crossbar and South Africa missed a big opportunity.

Kodisang forced a save with a curling effort in first half stoppage time, but at the break it remained goalless.

Makgopa took a shot in the 48th minute, but his effort from outside the area kept rising and went over the goal. A minute later Gignac had a chance on the other end but he shot straight at Williams.

Kodisang made it 1-0 to South Africa in the 51st minute, as he took advantage of a defensive slip from Clement Michelin. The former Platinum Stars youngster robbing the defender and with Bernardoni caught out of position, he finished easily.

However France were level in the 58th minute as Gignac poked in a cross from Randal Kolo Muani.

Thabo Cele’s free kick attempt in the 69th minute was on target, but failed to trouble Bernardoni.

South Africa took the lead again in the 73rd minute as Makgopa did brilliantly to finish at close range from a Kodisang cross, his first time volley flying in past Bernardoni.

But again South Africa were caught out, and Gignac headed in the equaliser in the 79th minute.

Teboho Mokoena made it 3-2 in the 82nd minute, with a fantastic strike from the edge of the area.

But France were awarded a penalty in the 84th minute when Williams committed a foul. Gignac stepped up to take the kick and made no mistake to complete his hat trick.

Williams saved from Gignac in the 90th minute, but France grabbed the lead in stoppage time as Savanier broke South African hearts, Gignac the provider.

Luke Fleurs missed a chance in the dying minutes, but he shot over from in front of goal, and the loss means South Africa’s run at the Olympics will need a miracle in their last game against Mexico, to advance to the knockouts.