Bafana fail to end year on a high

2010-11-18 00:00

SOUTH AFRICA were unable to end their year on a winning note, losing their final match of 2010 1-0 against a young, experimental USA in last night’s Nelson Mandela Challenge at a packed Cape Town Stadium.

The defeat was Bafana Bafana’s second of the year.

The other came in the 3-0 loss to Uruguay at Loftus in the World Cup finals in June.

Bafana Bafana continued their losing streak against the USA, with this the South Africans’ third defeat in meetings against the Americans.

The South Africans face a crucial home African Nations Cup qualifier against Egypt in March, and will know they will have to do better if they are to stand a chance of beating the Pharaohs.

Bafana spent a lot of the match in the American half, and enjoyed easily the lion’s share of possession against the inexperienced USA.

But the South Africans were unable to press home the advantages of their ownership of the ball against a visiting side playing deep, but excellently organised by coach Bob Bradley, to absorb pressure in midfield and defence.

Bafana needed to take the game to the USA, but their build-ups were too often too slow and overly precise.

It almost seemed inevitable that, unable to capitalise on their dominance, the South Africans would concede at some stage.

They did in the 85th minute, when a ball-watching defence allowed Colombian-born teen substitute Agudelo to slam a close-range finish past Khune for a goal on debut.

Agudelo’s goal perhaps rams home the difference in approach in grassroots structures of the two previous World Cup hosts.

This year’s hosts, South Africa, have dithered so far on how to invest their World Cup windfall.

USA ploughed their 1994 profit into development and structures, and have gone from strength to strength on the world stage, reaching the second round at this South Africa 2010. Their strength in depth was evident last night, as an almost exclusively experimental line-up beat a mix of South African regulars and youngsters.

South Africa dominated possession in the first half, though without truly taking the game to U.S. When they did, at times managing to get behind the American defence, indecision on the ball or a poor cross saw chances go to waste.

Despite this, South Africa did create the two best chances of the half.

New cap Davide Somma showed some good touches on his debut. With one of these he put Anele Ngcongca through on the right of the area, whose shot was well saved by goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Six minutes later Siphiwe Tshabalala’s push into the area saw Bernard Parker free in a similar position to the previous chance, and once again Guzan spread himself well.

The Americans’ best period of pressure came soon after, and their one convincing shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes came from Robbie Rogers, who was teed up on the edge of the area, with Bafana ’keeper Itumeleng Khune holding the save.

South Africa continued with their slow build-up in the second half, which did not have a great effect breaking down the rigidly deployed USA.

The Americans, for their part, continued to shoot on sight on the rare occasions when they did manufacture space in the region of the South African goal, with substitute Teal Burnley’s 55th-minute effort testing Khune.

In another prolonged, precise build-up, the end result was Bafana substitute Sthembiso Ngcobo, who had come on for Somma, ambitiously shooting into the side-netting from the right when Parker was in a good position inside.

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