16 November 2009
Carlos Alberto Parreira oversaw his first match back in charge of Bafana Bafana and striker Benni McCarthy made his return to the team as South Africa and Japan drew goalless in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The match was played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, which was especially constructed for the 2010 Fifa World Cup™. It is the city’s first stadium solely devoted to football, and it looked a fine picture on a sunny day with its eye-catching roof and a colourful crowd packing in to take in the match.
Overall, the contest was pretty much a stalemate, with Japan enjoying the edge in terms of possession and territory, but failing to create many chances.
What was encouraging for the South Africans fans was the determination exhibited by the home team; it had, it seemed, gone AWOL since the Fifa Confederations Cup in June, resulting in a long run of losses that led to the resignation of coach Joel Santana.
Japan started confidently, passing the ball around well, and creating two long-range opportunities. The best of them, a fierce drive by Makoto Hasebe, was knocked over the top of the crossbar by South African goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs.
Shinji Okazaki, who scored a hat-trick against Togo last month in a 5-0 Japanese victory, found the side of the net with a shot from a narrow angle.
Bafana Bafana’s only decent chance of the entire game fell to Siphiwe Tshabalala after half-an-hour. His powerful drive was, however, deflected for a corner by Japan’s goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Katlego Mphela had an opportunity for a shot with half-time nearing after good work by Anele Ngcongca, but he fired hopelessly high and wide.
After half-time, Japan started strongly once more, putting Bafana Bafana under pressure, but, like it was in the first half, after weathering the storm the home team found some parity. Opportunities were few and far between, more so than in the first half.
The Blue Samurai created another chance near the end of the contest, with Okazaki again testing Josephs, who pulled off a good save.
McCarthy, no his return, showed a few nice touches up front for South Africa, but had no shots on goal.
Afterwards, coach Parreira told Fifa.com: “This was a difficult match because Japan came here having scored a lot of goals recently.
“I’m satisfied with our performance while accepting that we will have to do much better.”
He added: “Japan marked very well and that is why Benni McCarthy never got a clear-cut chance, but for my first match back in charge it was okay.”
Parreira also suggested that a change of clubs before the World Cup could do McCarthy good, saying South Africa’s all-time leading international goal scorer needs regular starts to find his best form.
Since Sam Allardyce took over as manager of Blackburn Rovers, McCarthy has found himself on the bench. He has been linked with a move to Portsmouth when the transfer window opens in January.
Bafana Bafana will be in action again on Tuesday when they face Jamaica in Bloemfontein. The islanders are ranked 69th by Fifa, 16 places above South Africa.
Their most recent games have produced few goals: a 1-0 win over Saint Kitts and Nevis, a goalless draw against Ecuador, a 1-0 win over El Salvador, and 1-0 losses to Costa Rica and Canada.
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