A little more than a year after hosting a successful World Cup, South Africa woke up to a giant hangover on Sunday after a failure to understand the rules saw them miss out on qualification for the African Nations Cup.Coach Pitso Mosimane admitted he had changed tactics and played for a draw in Saturday's final qualifier at home to Sierra Leone, thinking it was sufficient enough to win the group and qualify for the 2012 finals co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
However, South Africa actually needed a win to avoid being eliminated on head-to-head results between the three teams tied at the top of the table. Despite playing out the draw, they were pipped by Niger, who qualified for the first time.
More embarrassingly, the Bafana Bafana celebrated their supposed qualification at the end of the scoreless stalemate in Nelspruit.
The coach, who took over after the World Cup, was under the impression that goal difference was the determining factor to decide the group winners and when he was told that leaders Niger were losing in Egypt, he changed tactics. The state-run African Broadcasting Corporation proclaimed qualification and the South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani even went on television to congratulate the team. He and Mosimane are now likely to face calls to resign.