World Cup woe for Bafana Bafana

17 June 2010

With Diego Forlan pulling the strings and producing a superb individual performance, Uruguay severely dented South Africa’s hopes of reaching the second round of the 2010 Fifa World Cup by beating Bafana Bafana 3-0 in a chilly Pretoria on Wednesday night.

Make no mistake, the South Americans were worthy winners of the contest. However, luck was not on the side of the home team, with Lady Luck playing a part in the visitors’ first two goals. The third came in fifth minute of time extra time at the end of the contest.

Uruguay outplayed South Africa tactically. The Uruguayan forwards and midfield, especially, worked well together to put pressure on Bafana Bafana as they tried to move the ball upfield. This resulted in lone striker Katlego Mphela being starved of the ball.

It worked a treat

Up front, coach Oscar Washington Tabarez employed three strikers, with two men out wide and Forlan sitting in the space behind them. It worked a treat, with the Atletico Madrid star directing his side’s attacking forays with aplomb.

Clearly, the Uruguayans also had a plan for SA midfielder Steven Pienaar, rendering him ineffective by working hard to close him down and affording him little time on the ball.

For Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira it was a frustrating evening, and he lambasted referee Massimo Busacca for what he felt was a poor performance.

Early on, Siphiwe Tshabalala, no doubt full of confidence after his superb goal against Mexico, tried a couple of shots from range, but neither came close to troubling goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

Both teams were working to find their rhythm, and it was Uruguay who were slowly settling into the game they wanted to play. A shot by Luis Suarez, which was parried away by Itumeleng Khune in the South African goal, served as a warning to Aaron Mokoena and company.

Goal

Then, in the 24th minute, Uruguay took the lead. With his back to the South African goal, Forlan picked up a ball about 30 metres out. Swivelling, he blasted a shot towards net-minder Khune.

It caught the back of Mokoena, causing the ball to take a rainbow-shaped loop over Khune, who was caught flat-footed and unable to get a hand on it as it descended from a difficult height into the top of the South African net.

The goal silenced the crowd which had until that point been blowing happily away on its vuvuzelas. Many Bafana Bafana supporters sat stunned, finding it hard to believe their team was behind.

Five minutes from half-time, Katlego Mphela headed just wide from a cross by Teko Modise, but it was a shot taken from some distance, which is where South Africa were forced to shoot from for most of the game.

Second half

After the break, Uruguay had a good opportunity to extend their lead on the hour-mark when captain Diego Lugano was left unmarked and on the end of a cross in the South African box. However, he caught the ball with the back of his head and the ball went up in the air and was cleared.

Bafana Bafana’s best chance of the contest came in the 66th minute when Pienaar fed Sibiniso Gaxa, who was steaming down the right flank. Gaxa crossed to the near post and Mphela headed wide from about four metres out.

Getting shots on target proved to be a big problem for South Africa on the night. The few that were struck in the right direction proved to be pretty tame.

Two minutes later, Forlan set up Edinson Cavani for a shot on goal, but Cavani scuffed his left footed shot.

Modise responded with a long range shot for South Africa, but Muslera saved comfortably.

Missed offsides

With 15 minutes to play, Khune parried a deflected shot from Suarez low to his left. When it was struck, the Uruguayan striker was onsides, but it deflected off a team-mate on its way to him, and by then he was off-sides. It was a difficult thing to pick up and the linesman could be forgiven for missing it, but it was to cost Bafana Bafana dearly.

As the movement continued, Khune was forced to parry a shot low to his left, but Suarez was put back in possession and, when he tried to round the goalkeeper, Khune caught him on the foot and brought him down.

The referee showed a distraught Khune the red card and pointed to the penalty spot. It took four minutes to bring in Moneeb Josephs for Khune and to take Pienaar off so that Josephs could take his place between the posts.

Forlan, South Africa’s tormentor, took the spot kick and drilled it high and to the right of Josephs, into the top netting to put Uruguay 2-0 up.

Stifled

Bafana Bafana tried hard to come back, but Uruguay maintained their composure and stifled the home side’s attempted attacks.

With only a minute remaining in extra time, a final sickening blow was dealt to the South African supporters and Forlan was again the initiator of the move.

With good vision, he crossed from the left to an unmarked Suarez on the right. Suarez then picked out Alvaro Pereira at the far post for an easy header and the cherry on the top of a 3-0 victory for Uruguay.

The South Americans, with four points, are strong bets to reach the second round. They face Mexico in their last group game.

Bafana Bafana, with one point and a goal difference of minus-three, will need nothing less than a win against France in Bloemfontein next Tuesday to have any hope of reaching the second round.

If they don’t get the victory, South Africa would become the first World Cup host nation to fail to progress beyond the group stages.

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