Coach proud of his Boys

2010-06-12 00:00

“WE are still in the tournament,” was coach Carlos Alberto Parreira’s essential message after watching his side come agonisingly close to beating Mexico in the opening game of the World Cup at Soccer City yesterday.

Bafana were defensively frail at times, especially in the first half, and gave the ball away more than the slick attacking Mexicans, who are comfortable on the ball and superbly organised.

Parreira said he was proud of his side’s performance overall, and put Bafana’s poor first-half perfor­mance down to nerves.

“Most of our team are home-based and not used to this big environment. We could see they took time to adjust to the ambience,” Parreira said.

“After the first 15 minutes we started to play our game, putting the ball on the grass knowing that Mexico, as they were in their last three friendly games, are the most daring team in this World Cup.

“In the second half we balanced the game. We created chances that could even have won the game.

“All-in-all, it was a fair result. We are still in the competition. I think this group will be very tough.

“All the games will be won by a narrow margin or a draw. I believe a team that earns four points will qualify.

“I can’t ask for more from the boys. I think they played a good game. The spirit was very high from the very beginning. They didn’t disappoint us.

“In the second half, once the players cooled down from the pressure of the opening game, we started putting the ball on the ground.

“Whatever happens against Uruguay, I think this group will be decided by the last game against France.”

Bafana play Uruguay at Loftus on Wednesday and France in Bloemfontein on June 22.

“The best results are always to win. This result was a beginning, being the home team in the opening game, where the pressure is there with 90 000 people.

“This game was the ice-breaker.”

The Mexicans played to their highly attacking gameplan against Bafana. Their three forwards, Carlos Vela, Giovani Dos Santos and Guilermo Franco, at times wreaked havoc amongst the South Africans.

Bafana’s shape was not at its best in the first 45 minutes. Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and central defenders Bongani Khumalo and captain Aaron Mokoena had to work overtime to keep Mexico at bay.

In the second half Bafana relaxed into a rhythm and, after Siphiwe Tshabalala’s thunderous strike in the 55th minute, had Mexico rattled.

The experienced central Americans capitalised on a defensive error as captain Rafael Marquez equalised with 11 minutes to go.

“But near the end, Katlego Mphela hit the post. Taking into account the quality of Mexico, I think we did well overall. I don’t feel frustrated at all.”

The experience of playing in front of around 85 000 fans in a pressure environment of the opening match will stand Bafana in good stead in their next two games.

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