Bafana take a big scalp

2008-03-26 00:00

CARLOS Alberto Parreira last week told his detractors to "Shut up!", but he could not have asked for a better on-the-field message to silence the naysayers than Bafana Bafana‚s 3-0 victory over Paraguay at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria last night.

Bafana put in their best performance under Parreira so far against the 26th-ranked team in the world, vindicating the coach‚s view that South Africa are on track to building a competitive team for the 2010 World Cup.

"I am not saying it because of this result, but we have said it before, we are on track," Parreira said afterwards. "Tonight we showed, you start at elementary school, then you move to the university and then you graduate - you don't go straight to the graduation.

"And also we said before the game it was time to start winning. It is not enough just to play good football and show development."

It has taken Parreira some time to identify the leaks and spurts in what was a fast-deteriorating Bafana engine, but last night it finally turned over in a healthy growl.

The victory should not be taken as an arrival. It was not a faultless performance. Bafana’s defence barely won a set piece swung in by the big Paraguayans, and there is clearly still a long way to go. But it has been a long time since South Africa have played with such expression and authority.

The result comes as a timely confidence boost for South Africa ahead of June's crucial African Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria in Lagos.

Paraguay, leaders of the South American World Cup qualifying group, started with a formidable line-up. This included Claudio Morel Rodriguez, a defender with Argentinean giants Boca Juniors, Borussia Dortmund striker Nelson Haedo and winger Edgar Barreto of Reggina in Italy.

They suffered a setback within the first half-hour, though, when star striker Roque Santa Cruz, the team-mate of Benni McCarthy and Aaron Mokoena at Blackburn Rovers, had to be replaced injured by Oscar Cardozo.

South Africa captain Mokoena equalled Shaun Bartlett's record of 74 caps last night. McCarthy made a scoring return after missing out on the African Nations Cup in January to go to 30 goals and become Bafana‚s top scorer, passing a record also set by Bartlett.

South Africa's midfield of Teko Modise, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Lance Davids and Siphiwe Tshabalala always had creative potential, and it proved that way.

Modise hit the crossbar in just the seventh minute with a rocket from 30 metres that any South American would have been proud to call his own. In the 19th minute Bryce Moon broke free on the right and his cross found McCarthy free in the area, whose awkward body positioning saw the striker volley high.

Haedo made sure goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was on his toes in just his second international, the Chiefs ‚keeper doing well to keep out a 20 metre drive.

But in the 35th minute a moment of magic from excellent left-back Tsepo Masilela, jinking past Paraguay right-back Carlos Bonet on the left of the area, set up Bafana's opener. Masilela picked out Surprise Moriri on the far side, who took the ball on his chest and blasted past goalkeeper Justo Villar.

In a sign that things were not going right for the visitors coach Gerardo Martino, made his second substitution just before the break, Reinaldo Roman replacing Delio Toledo. Khune made another good save from Jonathan Santana's shot through a crowded area to preserve the lead into half time.

It took a minute from the break for South Africa to make it 2-0 in the simplest fashion, Moriri floating in a cross from the left and McCarthy getting between two defenders to nod the ball home with a goal-poacher's instinct.

Dikgacoi, growing in confidence in defensive midfield, shot over from range, then it was 3-0 through Siphiwe Tshabalala in the 63rd minute. The Kaizer Chiefs winger spotted Villas off his line and beat the ‚keeper with a sublime chip from 25m.

Bafana were firmly on top, and the Paraguayans chasing shadows, though Parreira's introduction of several youngsters - including Thulasizwe Mbuyane, Excellent Walaza and Bernard Parker - broke the rhythm somewhat.

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