27 March 2008
Bafana Bafana scored a stylish and convincing 3-0 victory over world number 26 Paraguay at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville on Wednesday evening with what was undoubtedly their best performance yet under coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
The victory was the first for South Africa over South American opposition in 10 outings, making the emphatic nature of the win all the more astonishing.
Adding further gloss to the result is the fact that the Paraguayans entered the contest as the team on top of the standings in South American 2010 World Cup qualifying, ahead of world number one and two, Argentina and Brazil.
Bafana Bafana’s effort satisfied coach Parreira and the fans. The supporters were in hearty voice throughout, with vuvuzelas blearing, as they witnessed a fluid, efficient and entertaining team in action.
‘Everything went right’
“I think the philosophy is there. The shape is there,” said Parreira afterwards, as he reflected on a superb performance in which he admitted “everything went right”.
He also hit back at critics who had suggested that Bafana Bafana employed a system that was too defensive. Parreira said it wasn’t about the number of strikers, rather it was about getting players into the right areas and South Africa certainly managed to do that.
As Parreira suggested, it was a complete performance and that meant that it at long last contained good finishing.
One of the goals – the second – was scored by Benni McCarthy, his 30th for Bafana Bafana, which took him out of a tie with Shaun Bartlett for the most goals scored for South Africa. Captain Aaron Mokoena, meanwhile, equaled Bartlett’s record of 74 appearances for the team.
From the opening whistle, the home team showed attacking intent and they were almost rewarded early on when Teko Modise let fly with a powerful shot that beat Paraguay’s goalkeeper Justo Villar but was stopped by the crossbar.
Another attacking foray into the Paraguayan box resulted in a defender touching the ball with his hand, but the referee deemed it unintentional and the South Americans earned a temporary reprieve.
With Bafana employing Tshepo Masilela and Bryce Moon effectively on the flanks, along with a smoothly operating midfield, SA’s ability to use the width of the field meant they were able to penetrate the Paraguayan defences.
A cross from Moon found McCarthy in a good position, but his shot flew harmlessly over the goals with only the goalie to beat.
The Paraguayans were struck a blow when they lost one of their stars, striker Roque Santa Cruz, after 21 minutes when he was injured in a poor challenge by his Blackburn Rovers’ teammate Aaron Mokoena.
After half-an-hour, Masilela helped create the opening goal. Breaking infield, he burst into the penalty area before sending a hard cross across the goals to Surprise Moriri. With considerable skill, he trapped the ball with his chest and before it hit the ground volleyed a stunning shot into the top of the net past Villar.
Two minutes into the second half McCarthy scored his record-breaking goal. Masilela crossed accurately from the left and despite the attentions of two defenders, the striker rose high and headed into the corner to the left of the keeper.
Fifteen minutes later, Simphiwe Tshabalala put an exclamation mark on the scoreline by scoring South Africa’s third goal, thanks to a combination of superb finishing and vision.
About 20 metres out from the Paraguayan goal and on the left of midfield, he exchanged a one-two with McCarthy. After receiving the return pass, he, without hesitation, struck a superb chip over Villar, who wasn’t that far off his line. It was a beautifully-executed killer blow.
Paraguay tried hard to find a reply, but SA goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune didn’t have much to do to keep a clean sheet. With South Africa in charge in the midfield, the momentum was on the side of Bafana Bafana.
The 3-0 scoreline, while very unexpected, was thoroughly deserved. It not only gave South Africa a win over a highly-ranked opponent, but it also raised hopes that Bafana Bafana could indeed become a tough team to deal with by the time the 2010 World Cup arrives.