Bafana out-thought, out-muscled by Uruguay

2010-06-18 00:00

AS the post-mortems roll in, the cold, hard reality Bafana Bafana face from their 3-0 World Cup Group A defeat against Uruguay at Loftus on Wednesday night is that the South Africans were out-thought and out-muscled by the South Americans.

The result left South Africa needing to beat ninth-ranked France in their final game, and perhaps by a convincing margin, to stand any chance of reaching the second round.

Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira slammed Swiss referee Massimo Busacca for erring when he awarded a penalty in the 76th minute to Uruguay where striker Luis Suarez was in an offside position when he was fouled by South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

Khune was then harshly red-carded by Busacca for a challenge where there was minimal contact with Suarez, and the striker went down dramatically.

Earlier the referee had failed to book Suarez for a dive in the penalty area when there had been no contact with Bafana defender Bongani Khumalo.

At the time the penalty was given the World Cup hosts were fighting to try to get back into the game, though they had only created two half-chances until then, both headers by striker Katlego Mphela.

While Parreira slammed the referee, the coach himself might take some blame for not opting to substitute out-of-form midfielders Steven Pienaar and Teko Modise when younger legs and minds might have made a difference.

Mostly though, South Africa’s short-passing game plan, revolving around patient build-ups, patently failed against the Uruguayans and the coach could have switched to a more attacking, direct approach earlier in the game.

Bafana’s tactic of grouping and then hitting teams fast with short, crisp passes worked against an ultra-attacking Mexico in their 1-1 opening draw. The South Africans were able to wait, then exploit the spaces left by the advancing central Americans.

Against Uruguay, South Africa encountered a physical team who pushed Bafana back with their robust midfield, and whose defence allowed no space in their own half, resulting in the hosts running into a wall of white with their short-passing game plan.

Forceful runners Suarez and Edinson Cavani, orchestrated by masterful playmaker Diego Forlan, revelled in their team’s direct approach and exploited the hosts’ nervous frailties at the back.

Khumalo said the South Africans were shocked by the referee’s decision to award the 76th-minute killer penalty, from which Forlan scored his side’s second goal, as Suarez had been offside.

The striker had been onside at the time Forlan attempted a wayward shot on goal, but the ball was deflected through to Suarez off the leg of Cavani when the striker was two metres in an offside position.

“We felt for their second goal it was offside. I thought the red card was harsh and it is the decision that went against us at the worst possible time, but there was nothing we could do but to accept it,” Khumalo said.

Captain Aaron Mokoena said the penalty took the stuffing out of any effort Bafana could make to fight their way back into the game, and perhaps earn a draw.

“I think that it changed our shape and changed our game altogether,” Mokoena said. “Playing against such a team and losing one man is always going to be a mountain to climb and I think that’s what happened.”

He added: “Drawing one and losing one was not a position we wanted to see ourselves in. It’s going to be a hard game against France, but for us it’s all about going back to the drawing board and making sure we are ready.

“It’s absolutely going to be difficult. But we have got to win. I don’t think France will press us as much as Uruguay did.

“We have to make sure we believe in our football so we are able to create chances.”

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