Phokeng, South Africa | AFP | Malawi and Mauritius and Angola and Tanzania played out drab 0-0 draws on Tuesday, leaving the four nations with a chance of winning Group A at the COSAFA Cup and reaching the quarter-finals.
After nine goals in the first two southern Africa championship matchdays in Moruleng, the small crowd who braved the cold in nearby Phokeng were starved of excitement.
Tanzania (plus two goal difference) and Angola (plus one) have four points and Mauritius (minus one) and Malawi (minus two) one entering the final series of group fixtures.
Angola play Malawi in Phokeng on Thursday at the same time as Mauritius meet Tanzania in Moruleng. Both venues are in the platinum producing area of northwest South Africa.
The group winners, who could well be decided on goal difference or goals scored, face defending champions South Africa this weekend in the quarter-finals.
Malawi and Mauritius provided marginally more entertainment in the first match of the double-header at a venue used for the 2010 World Cup, the first in Africa.
Innocent Bokosi stung the fingers of impressive Mauritian goalkeeper Kevin Jean-Louis with an early close-range shot.
A slightly over-hit through ball robbed Joseph Perticots of a chance to put Mauritius ahead at the other end during a match notable for no-holds-barred tackling.
The best chance of the second half fell to unmarked Malawian John Lanjesi, who headed straight at Jean-Louis from close range.
Defensive marshal Lanjesi was later cautioned — his second yellow card of the tournament — and is suspended for the fixture against Angola.
Shots on target were scarce in the second match and Angola and Tanzania appeared to settle for a draw long before the final whistle ended a drama-less encounter.
Group B resumes on Wednesday with a top-of-the-table clash between Zimbabwe and Madagascar followed by Mozambique against the Seychelles.
Besides South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia received byes to the quarter-finals based on their COSAFA Cup records.