Bafana’s 1-1 draw with Australia a stepping stone for the future

2014-05-26 14:48

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Australian coach Ange Postecoglou must have a clearer picture of his squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after the 1-1 draw with Bafana Bafana today.

On the other hand, Gordon Igesund – or whoever will take over from him after his contract expires at the end of next month – knows which players to build the future of Bafana Bafana on.

The draw was a fair reflection of the game but either of the sides could have easily stolen a winner.

As much as there were no fireworks, the sides dished out some decent soccer and the young Bafana Bafana players bravely represented their country.

It was only at the restart that Igesund tinkered with his starting 11, introducing Bongani Zungu for Thuso Phala who had been quiet and failed to make the bursting sprints he is known for.

Nine minutes into the half Postecoglou followed suit, introducing Luke Wilkshire for Ivan Franjic. He was later to substitute Tim Cahill with Ben Halloran, Tommy Oar with Dario Vidosic, James Holland with Oliver Bozanic, and late in the game Josh Kennedy came on for the influential Mathew Leckie.

Igesund’s other substitutes were Siphelele Mthembu for Tokelo Rantie, Themba Zwane for Ayanda Patosi and eventually Siyabonga Nhlapo for Thulani Serero.

Watched by a crowd of 50 459, including a group of South Africans who at intervals broke out singing Shosholoza, the match did not disappoint as Zwane and Nhlapo made their debut.

The Socceroos made their intentions of playing attacking football known early as they bombarded the South African goal.

They gained a second-minute throw-in in a dangerous area but it was brilliantly defended.

Mathew Leckie showed some silky touches and, together with Tommy Oar, was a pain in the most tender part of the Bafana Bafana defence.

However, it was the boys from Mzansi who took the lead via Patosi in the 13th minute. The goal came off a good run by Rantie who took the defence with him, cut in from the left-hand side, and released a shot that was blocked but fell kindly for the Belgian-based Patosi.

The latter niftily placed the ball wide of the diving body of goalkeeper Matt Ryan. The Australian shot-stopper was playing his fifth game against defender Anele Ngcongca as they had already faced each other four times in the Belgian League.

South Africa’s joy was short-lived though as the Socceroos replied within a minute from a header by veteran skipper Cahill who is off to his third World Cup.

The former Everton player beat Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa to a lofted cross and nodded into the empty net amid a desperate attempt by Kaizer Chiefs defender Eric “Mulomowandau” Mathoho to stop the goal.

The Amakhosi stopper was playing his last game on this tour as he will not travel with the rest of the squad to New Zealand after receiving the sad news of the passing away of his cousin.

Australia seemed bent on getting SA kingpin Serero off the field as they rough tackled the tiny player right through the first half.

This culminated in James Holland being booked by Korean referee John-Hyeok Kim in the 26th minute for a foul on Serero.

Reneilwe Letsholonyane, who wore the captain’s armband, should have put South Africa ahead once more in the 32nd minute when he opted for a pass instead of taking the responsibility and going for goal.

All in all, Australia dominated the first half.

The match was played at the iconic 83 500-seater venue, completed in 1999 – at a cost of $690 million (R7 billion) – just in time for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Situated at the Sydney Olympic Park, the venue started life as Stadium Australia, then Telstra Stadium before adapting its current name as a result of sponsorship.

It has since hosted the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, Bledisloe Cup matches as well as the annual Rugby League grand final.

It is the second largest stadium after the Melbourne Cricket Ground that hosted Australia’s farewell match against Greece before the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, a match that attracted a crowd of 95 000.

Postecoglou will drop three players after this match to trim his squad to 27. This grouop will travel to Brazil but will be trimmed to the final 23 before their last two friendly matches against Brazilian Second Division side Paraná Clube on Monday and Croatia on Friday.

Australia open their World Cup campaign against Chile on June 13.

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