15 November 2012
Bafana Bafana went down 1-0 to Zambia in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium on Wednesday evening, leading coach Gordon Igesund to say afterwards that he hasn’t yet settled on his squad for the African Cup of Nations, which kicks off on 19 January.
Only three more warm-up matches remain for South Africa before the continental championship starts, and Igesund needs to find answers to his questions. Yet, Bafana Bafana supporters should not be unfamiliar with the situation; it seems to be almost customary for the South African Football Association (Safa) to appoint a new coach shortly before the event.
Addressing the media afterwards, Igesund said: “We played against the champions tonight. Right now, I’m disappointed that we never won the game or got something out of it.”
‘We are going to improve’
Adding a note of optimism, he continued: “We are going to improve by at least 35 to 40 percent [by the time of the African Cup of Nations].
“We know where we are going. We know what we have to do and by the first [of January] when we’ve got all the players on board, we’ll have a good 18 days of training sessions, mornings and afternoons, to try to mould them into more of a unit.”
The home team’s challenge on Wednesday was undermined by an injury to striker Takelo Rantie, who last only half-an-hour before being replaced by Katlego Mashego, while Bernard Parker also suffered a knock and did not return for the second half, with Kermit Erasmus taking his place.
Playing in front of a crowd of 17 000, Bafana started brightly enough and an early free kick taken by Ricardo Nunes forced Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene into a save.
Lerato Chabangu picked out Rantie with a free kick, but his header was wide of the mark, while Parker let loose from range with a left-footed shot, which passed just over the crossbar.
Isaac Chansa, who previously spent time with Orlando Pirates, then warmed Itumeleng Khune’s gloves with a shot from distance.
The momentum swung the way of Chipolopolo as Jacob Mulenga, Chansa and Chisamba Lungu all tested Khune without success.
Shortly after the departure of Rantie, Dean Furman was shown a yellow card and Zambia’s Nathan Sinkala quickly followed him into the referee’s book.
The half-time whistle sounded with Zambia in charge after a good start by the home team.
As they had done in the first half, South Africa started the second stanza well with Mashego and Kermit Erasmus both managing to get off attempts on goal, although neither man troubled Mweene in the Zambian goal.
After a good build-up, the contest’s sole goal came in the 64th minute from Orlando Pirates marksman Collins Mbesuma. He gave Khune no chance with a left-footed rocket of a shot from just outside the box, which smashed into Khune’s top right hand corner, setting off celebrations among the green-clad Zambian supporters.
With 15 minutes to play, Zambia’s lead could have been doubled, but former Moroka Swallows’ striker James Chamanga missed the mark after a good cross from Thabo Nthethe on the left.
Five minutes later, 34-year-old Delron Buckley made his first appearance for Bafana Bafana since a 2008 World Cup qualifier against Sierra Leone, earning his 73rd international cap.
Near the end, Zambia had a penalty shout turned down by referee Simanga Nhleko when Mbesuma went down under a challege from Bafana Bafana skipper Bongani Khumalo and South Africa almost snatched a late equaliser when Erasmus forced a superb save out of Mweene, but Mashego was unable to net from the rebound.
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