Keeper boost for Bafana

2008-01-25 00:00

AFTER negotiating their first hurdle with a 1-1 draw against Angola on Wednesday, South Africa were boosted ahead of their next African Nations Cup match — against Tunisia — by goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez’s return to full training yesterday.

Fernandez, injured ahead of a friendly warm-up in Durban before the tournament, is set to replace Moeneeb Josephs. Josephs did not make any mistakes against Angola, but did look shaky controlling his area, and Bafana will welcome the return of their number one ’keeper.

Elrio van Heerden’s superb equaliser in the 87th minute against Angola kept Bafana in contention in Group D, after Senegal and Tunisia drew the earlier game at the Tamale Sports Stadium 2-2.

Defender Nasief Morris said of the team’s remaining Group D games against Tunisia and Senegal, who have stronger line-ups on paper than Angola: “Names are names and paper is paper, the job is done on the field”.

“If we play the way we were playing yesterday, especially in the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes, for at least 70 minutes, we will beat any team in this competition.”

South Africa’s perennial problem of not being able to put the ball in the net again put them under pressure.

“I think it was a good start,” said captain Aaron Mokoena. “We could have done better with the first goal [by Angola]. But we had a few chances as well, and once again couldn’t really make use of them. Angola got a lousy chance and it was in the back of the net.”

Mokoena said the group remains wide open. “Anything is still possible. We just have to take what the players did in the second half through to the next game.”

Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira praised the determination of his players, who showed a fighting spirit that has been lacking for South Africa in recent Nations Cups, to come back from a goal down.

“I said before that this is a difficult group and anyone can win it, and today’s results showed that. We never gave up and I’m very proud of the players. The spirit in this team is second to none,” Parreira said.

From the start it was clear that Angola would throw themselves into every challenge. The Palancas Negras’ strikers, 29th-minute scorer Manucho and Flavio, gave the Bafana defence a torrid evening.

But South Africa gave as good as they got and observers would have taken notice that this is a Bafana team that plays.

The performance was far from flawless, and left midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala and shadow striker Surprise Moriri were ineffective, and should be replaced on Sunday by Van Heerden and Terror Fanteni, who was lively as a substitute.

As was suspected, Benson Mhlongo was exposed for pace by the Angolan forwards. Central partner Morris had a stormer at the back, particularly because he often had to cover for Mhlongo.

Parreira, though, is unlikely to change his defence now that the competition has started and will hope for Mhlongo to improve. The Sundowns captain will at least have some reprieve against Tunisia, whose forwards are big and physical, rather than nimble and quick like

Angola’s.

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