In a 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations Group B match full of opportunities for both sides it was the Bright Stars of South Sudan who came out on top by a 1-0 score over Central African Republic on Thursday. Paul Jawa scored his second goal of the competition from the penalty spot within the opening two minutes to give South Sudan a lead they would not relinquish despite a fierce attacking effort from Les Fauves. South Sudan will face neighbors Uganda in their final Group B fixture and are in excellent shape to continue making history by reaching the quarterfinals while Central African Republic face Republic of Congo.
Thursday’s opening AFCON U-20 match changed the trend of slow starts in the competition by getting right to business early on. Jawa made his way through a gauntlet of Central African defenders into the penalty area before being tripped up for the referee to award a penalty kick in the opening minute. The 18-year-old who plays his club football at Rainbow FC in Kenya picked himself up and sent Central African Republic goalkeeper Mauril Abimala the wrong way with a calm spot kick.
Les Fauves made plenty of effort to level the match but luck was not on their side. In the first half Alban Goyema had a couple of opportunities to draw his side level, drawing a save from South Sudan goalkeeper Godwill Yogusuk with a shot attempt. A little later Goyema’s excellent curled free kick saw Yogusuk tip the effort onto the crossbar before Boris Gbenou sent a bicycle kick attempt off target on the rebound.
Both teams had opportunities in the second half but Central African Republic will feel they should have equalized after attempting twenty-six shots with seven that went on target. South Sudan had their own chances to put the match away but good goalkeeping from Abimala kept it close. In the end there was great relief and joy for the South Sudanese team with the full time whistle providing an occasion to celebrate as the youngest team in the competition continue to make history for the world’s most recently independent nation.
Highlights are below.