PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — Mali again showed incredible resilience to come from behind and knock the host team out of the African Cup of Nations in a penalty shootout for the second straight year, joining Ghana in the semifinals on Saturday.
The Malians came from 1-0 down to level and then oust South Africa in their quarterfinal after a shootout, repeating the come-from-behind victory from last year when they surged past co-host Gabon and another partisan home crowd to make the last four.
Inspirational Mali captain Seydou Keita equalized in regular time after Tokelo Rantie gave South Africa the early lead in front of 50,000 in Durban. Goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite then saved two penalties and watched another go flying past his post to see the Malians through and again give their troubled country hope of a morale boosting first ever African Cup title.
"This victory means a lot to everyone in Mali," Keita said, with his nation's flag wrapped around him. "This is an emotional moment for me and this team. We did our job today ... we fought hard."
Ghana was the first team to make the semifinals when Wakaso Mubarak came off the bench to score twice and end Cape Verde's fairytale tournament with a 2-0 win in Port Elizabeth.
Mali will play Ivory Coast or Nigeria, and Ghana the winner of the Togo-Burkina Faso quarterfinal as the West African countries were left to dominate the final stages of the cup following South Africa's painful exit.
Striker Rantie put Bafana Bafana ahead in the first half at Moses Mabhida Stadium, but left injured before halftime and Mali's brave team clawed its way back under the outstanding leadership of Keita.
The skipper and former Barcelona midfielder headed in an equalizer in the 58th minute, but wasn't needed in the shootout as South Africa missed three consecutive spot kicks to go crashing out after substitute Siphiwe Tshabalala succeeded with the first.
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