Baby steps for Bafana, with a convincing win to build on
A brace from Bernard Parker helped Bafana Bafana to a convincing 2-0 win over Mozambique on Tuesday night. It was only Mozambique – ranked 109th in the world – but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, writes ANT SIMS.
There's no need to say that Bafana Bafana was expected to beat Mozambique on Tuesday evening. Since the opponent was ranked 109th in the world, South Africa needed to come away with a positive result to ensure critics, doubters and haters were silenced for a brief period – and they delivered.
Gordon Igesund made three changes to the team that put up such a spirited performance against Brazil on Friday. Bernard Parker earned a starting berth with Benni McCarthy out injured, while Moeneeb Joseph replaced Itumeleng Khune in goal and replaced Kagisho Dikgacoi.
Parker's inclusion paid dividends almost immediately, when the Kaizer Chiefs man was set up by Siphiwe Tshabalala and blasted the ball into the lower right corner past the keeper. It took just four minutes for South Africa to create its next chance when Mozambique headed clear and Reneilwe Letsholonyane fired a volleyed shot from just outisde the penalty area over the crossbar.
Bafana's relentless attack continued and, just a minute later, Tshabalala was swinging in a cross for Bongani Khumalo. His header was sent sailing above the posts. Mozambique came close to levelling the scores, though, when against the run of play, Helder Pelembe found room to fire a shot from range. It sailed over the target, however, much to Bafana's relief.
The hosts continued to build the pressure and in the 41st minute, Khumalo nudged in a ball from a Tshabalala free-kick, but it was ruled offside by the assistant referee.South Africa continued to create chances and press forward, but the team’s inability to finish off in the final third was still evident. It’s an issue which has troubled Bafana for some time now; however, unlike the Bafana of old, the team never sat on its lead.
It was Parker who eventually put the game to bed with a fantastic strike in the 87th minute. A long cross from substitute Thamsanqa Gabuza was caressed into the back of the net after a dummy from Siboniso Gaxa.
Igesund was bullish after the win, and so he should be. He has very little time to do quite a lot, and the magic tactician is very much on the right track.
"This was just the start. We'll get better and better. Poland next. By the time AFCON starts, we want to be a machine,” said the coach.
Progress is a nice word, but change is the real motivator, and it’s something Igesund firmly believes in. Watch this space. DM
Photo: South Africa's coach Gordon Igesund reacts during their international friendly soccer match against Brazil in Sao Paulo September 7, 2012. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker