20 January 2013
The 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) got off to a raucous start when hosts South Africa took on Cape Verde in the opening match of the tournament at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.
The drone of the vuvuzela resounded around the ground, which was packed despite rainy conditions. The teams, unfortunately, didn’t respond with a pleasing game as they played out a disjointed, goalless draw.
It was Bafana Bafana’s first appearance in the continental finals since 2008, while for the Blue Sharks it was a first ever appearance in the Afcon finals, and it left the opposing coaches with very different feelings after the contest.
“Not too many of my players came to the party in the first half, which I thought was a total waste of time – and we weren’t much better in the second,” Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said at a post-match press conference.
‘There were big gaps’
Explaining where he thought his players had gone wrong, Igesund added: “There were big gaps between the midfield and we tried to get the ball to the strikers too quickly. Too many balls were played over the top at 100 miles per hour, which is something we don’t want to do.
“Some of the players seemed to freeze when the whistle blew and lost their nerve. Perhaps for some of them the occasion was a bit too big.”
Looking ahead, he said: “We now have to go for it in our next two games against Angola and Morocco. Of course we wanted to win and get a goal and get all three points, and we are not doomed yet. But we need to improve.
‘Credit to Cape Verde’
“Credit to Cape Verde. They are a good, well-organised team and play like Europeans. They defended well, slowed the game right down in the second half, and got the point they came looking for.”
Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes declared himself satisfied with his team’s performance: “For me, it was mission accomplished. The team was excellent, we did the job we came to do and met our objectives and now we can concentrate on our next match against Morocco.
“I am happy, the players are happy and the technical staff are happy.”
Wide of the mark
Bafana Bafana striker Bernard Parker was wide of the mark with a header from close range in the second minute as the players on both sides struggled to exert any kind of control. Numerous fouls were swopped early on, which undermined the flow of the contest, but Cape Verde came close to making a breakthrough in the 15th minute when Luis Platini was played in on top of the South African box. He pulled his shot across the face of the goal, however, much to the relief of the home supporters.
Neither team was managing to hold onto the ball for long as those players on the ball were hassled into giving it away with poor passes.<?p>
A ball from the right to the far side of the South African box from Nando Neves picked out a team-mate whose ambitious bicycle kick was met by fresh air. Then Bafana almost caught out the islanders with a long ball out on the counter-attack, but Lehlohonolo Majoro couldn’t bring it down quickly enough to make Cape Verde pay.
A Cape Verde free kick from 10 metres outside the home team’s box, almost directly in front followed, but it was sent flying high above Itumeleng Khune’s crossbar.
A little square
There were suggestions that the Blue Sharks were playing a little square at the back when Majoro again came close to getting behind the defence, but once more a better first touch was required.
The litany of fouls continued, resulting in Cape Verde earning another free kick some distance outside the South African area, but the resulting shot was a disappointing, gentle effort easily dealt with by Khune.
From a South African free kick on the left, Thuso Phala should have connected on the volley, just to the right of the Tubaroes Azuis goal, but he failed to make contact.
Luis Platini, who had already won a good number of free kicks off South Africa’s defenders, although he was going down very easily, responded with a left-footed shot that found the side of the netting.
The game was terribly scrappy, yet there were no rough fouls, and Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi, despite the plethora of niggling illegal tackles, chose not to produce a yellow card until a minute before the break when Anele Ngcongca was booked.
When Haimoudi blew the half-time whistle, the contest was still looking for a spark to ignite it.
Coach Gordon Igesund opted for only one change at half-time, bringing on Lerato Chabangu for Kagisho Dikgacoi.
As the second half began, the pattern of the first half continued, with the opposing midfielders shutting one another down and preventing any meaningful domination of possession by the other.
Edgy and nervous
The first 45 minutes were over, but both sets of players still looked edgy and nervous. There were not enough passes to the feet of players, leading to many games of aerial ping pong in the high altitude of Johannesburg.
Majoro had a decent opportunity for a shot, but dallied on the ball. He passed square to Bernard Parker, but the his pass was cut out by the Cape Verde goalkeeper, who was able to knock the striker’s cross away.
Seeking a spark, Igesund withdrew the scorer of South Africa’s splendid goal against Mexico in the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Siphiwe Tshabalala, after an hour and sent on Thulani Serero.
Then, with 22 minutes to go, Katlego Mphela took over from Lehlohonolo Majoro as Igesund made his final change.
The vuvuzelas continued to blow, but the crowd itself was relatively quiet as both sides struggled to open up the other. Igesund, on the sideline, was looking increasingly frustrated.
Cape Verde tested Khune when a cross from Ramos Nhuck was headed towards goal, but the South African goalkeeper deflected the ball behind for a corner after it took a nasty bounce.
When an opportunity opened up for Lerato Chabangu to either get off a shot or find a man just outside the Blue Sharks’ box with 10 minutes to go, his pass missed everybody; it was, in a way, a microcosm of the game, which was certainly missing a controlling influence pulling the strings in the midfield.
Ryan Mendes created a bit of space outside the South African box, but with three defenders nearby had to fire from distance and his effort flew well over the crossbar.
One could sense a little desperation in Bafana Bafana’s play as they sought an unlikely late winner, but Cape Verde resolutely maintained their defensive shape.
With two minutes left on the clock, Katlego Mphela had a chance to emulate his effort against Spain in the 2009 Fifa Confederation’s Cup from a similar position, but his tentative shot lacked venom and conviction and was too high.
A snapshot from Thabo Matlaba in the 90th minute caused the crowd to ooh and aah, but it passed harmlessly wide of goal.
A corner shortly after that saw the islanders under pressure, but again, the ball passed over the goal and the game ended nil-nil.
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