AFCON qualifier: coach Pitso happy with a point after tough encounter

2011-06-07 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Bafana Bafana arrived back home yesterday morning following their nerve-wracking goalless clash against Egypt in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Sunday at a packed Military Academy Stadium in Cairo.

Coach Pitso Mosimane admitted it was a tough match, but that he was happy with a point nevertheless. But he also emphasised he had gone to Egypt for the maximum points and that was apparent from the manner in which the team approached the game.

It was a very tactical match with both sides making few mistakes and not presenting many chances to score. But it was the South Africans who created better opportunities, Katlego Mphela coming very close in the first and second half. Perhaps the best chance for victory was missed by second-half substitute Tlou Segolela.

The Orlando Pirates forward was set free by Letsholonyane, and with the goalkeeper to beat he blasted it against the big frame of El Hedari, deep into referees optional time.

At that time the South African bench was already on the edge of the field ready to celebrate, but it was not to be.

“These things happen; I know we could have wrapped it up but I am happy with a point. We obviously came here for maximum points, but getting a point out of Cairo is not bad at all. We have always maintained that whatever happens we should return from here top of our group, and our objective has been achieved.

“It was a tough match I must give credit to my boys, they were disciplined tactically and that is why Egypt could not trouble us too much. The nerves were there, but they handled them with maturity.

“We have a good bunch here where there are no stars, each playing for the other, and that is where the spirit of winning starts. But make no mistake, Egypt has a good team and very organised, but I think this is not their time, it’s ours now,” said Mosimane.

Bafana Bafana are now on eight points at the top of Group G after four matches, with two rounds left. They are followed by Niger on six and Sierra Leone on four. The African champions Egypt are in danger of not qualifying and have amassed only two points. The only time they missed on qualifying was back in 1978.

Bafana’s next Afcon clash is in September against Niger away.

Due to injuries, Mosimane was forced to make four changes to the team that started against the North Africans in the first clash in March. Midfielder Andile Jali got his first start for Bafana Bafana in his sixth cap to close the gap left by Thanduyise Khuboni while Reneilwe Letsholonyane started in place of Steven Pienaar, who was ruled out of the match a few hours before kick-off.

In defence Siyabonga Sangweni stood in for Bongani Khumalo alongside Morgan Gould, with Tsepo Masilela returning to the left back position following a long absence due to injury. Mosimane used Siboniso Gaxa in the last clash against Egypt at left-back.

Siphiwe Tshabalala was handed the armband and became the highest capped member of the squad with 59 appearances for his country. Captain Steven Pienaar is on 58.

“It was a great honour for me to lead the team in the absence of Steven in this all-important match. Him being with us in Cairo really inspired all of us. Given a chance again I would do it. To get a draw in Cairo was just amazing and I believe we could have still won it.

“The boys worked their socks off and this was a well-deserved point, this team is growing in stature and we are clearly heading in the right direction. It was tough but worth it,” said Tshabalala.

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