Bafana’s balloon bursts

2010-06-17 00:00

THE deflation that came over Loftus last night when Diego Forlan scored from a contentious penalty in the 80th minute to make it 2-0 to Uruguay, and all but dash Bafana Bafana’s World Cup hopes, must have been felt 49 million times over around the country.

Alvaro Pereira’s headed goal with the last touch of the game five minutes into injury time added to the depression in a 3-0 victory to the Uruguayans.

Carlos Alberto Parreira once said that if Bafana don’t make it past Group A at the World Cup after the expectation that has been built up, it will be like a balloon being “let out”. That sensation was present in abundance at Loftus last night.

Two key moments decided the game. The first was when Uruguay’s superb playmaker, Diego Forlan, unleashed a screamer from 35 metres in the 24th minute that took a slight deflection off Aaron Mokoena and flew past a stationary Itumeleng Khune in the South African goal.

The second came in the 76th minute, when, with Bafana struggling to get a foothold in the game and produce an equaliser, the Uruguayans were awarded a killer penalty.

Forlan’s attempted shot took a deflection off Edinson Cavani and fell to Luis Suarez in an offside position, who was fouled by Khune running across goal alone.

The striker made a meal of the contact, dragging his foot and going down dramatically, and Swiss referee Massimo Busacca awarded the penalty. To add insult to calamity, Khune was red carded.

Replacement Moeneeb Josephs’s unenviable first task was to try to stop the penalty of Forlan, one of the world’s deadliest goalscorers.

The ’keeper went the right way, but stood no chance of stopping Forlan’s superbly struck spot-kick and with 10 minutes to go Bafana’s World Cup hopes were all but dashed.

Uruguay closed down spaces and pressed South Africa at every turn. In the face of this pressure, sloppy touches and incomplete passes were too often the bane of Bafana’s night.

Confronted by a superbly organised defence, the hosts did not create the frequency of chances needed to score at least one goal, and their opportunities were at best half-chances.

At the other end Uruguay’s lethal strikers profited from their team’s direct style and at times pried alarming gaps.

As Uruguay were increasingly content to defend their early 1-0 lead, so the hosts did begin to apply pressure, bayed on by the packed Loftus.

But Forlan’s penalty took the wind out of Bafana’s sails, and Pereira’s headed goal rammed home a convincing victory for Uruguay.

The South Africans were structured, but a little too much on their shell, and Uruguay’s dangerous strikers, Forlan and Suarez, had space to exploit.

In the 23rd minute Suarez was free on the right and shot straight at Khune.

A minute later Uruguay took the lead through leading player Forlan. There was a touch of fortune to the Atletico Madrid striker’s goal, as his searing drive from 35 metres took a slight deflection off Aaron Mokoena and looped over the stationary Itumeleng Khune’s head to go in off the bar.

The South Africans were shaken as a sloppy clearance from Dikgacoi was picked up by Edinson Cavani and worked to Suarez, who shot into the side netting.

A rare but promising move in the 40th minute resulted in Bafana’s first attempt at goal, with Katlego Mphela’s strong header from Teko Modise’s cross from deep just wide.

By half-time Bafana had seen little of the ball and with what possession they did have, the hosts ran into a physical white wall.

Uruguay were on the offensive after the break with two half-chances, Forlan’s close-range shot being deflected for a corner, then the playmaker finding captain Diego Lugano with his free-kick, who ballooned his header.

The South Africans finally constructed a move where they got behind the Uruguay defence when, in the 67th minute, Mphela got ahead of goalkeeper Fernando Muslera to Siboniso Gaxa’s cross, but headed wide.

With Bafana showing signs of coming back into the game in midfield, at the back the home side continued to open up alarmingly when confronted by the Uruguayans’ forceful front runners.

This deficiency resulted in the penalty that effectively ended the game as a contest.

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