Bafana’s slow start was costly

2010-03-04 00:00

IT may not have been the result to send Bafana Bafana on their merry way to month-long training camps that start next week in Brazil and then Germany, but a 1-1 draw in a World Cup warm-up game at Moses Mabhida Stadium last night was not the end of the world either.

The 111th-ranked Namibians are made up of amateurs, South African-based bench warmers and foreign-based players who are regulars in their clubs such as Turkish-based midfielder Razundara Tjikuzu and last night’s goal-scorer, Maritzburg United forward Rudolf Bester.

This was a game Bafana really should have won on their home ground, and there’s no doubt that a line-up in which coach Carlos Alberto Parreira fielded a number of fringe players had an off night.

But the game should be seen in its context — as a warm-up. South Africa were coming off a 6-2 victory over Swaziland and a 3-0 defeat of Zimbabwe, and you can’t win them all.

Namibia’s Belgian coach, Tom Saintfiet, summed up the game when asked what he thought of Bafana’s chances at the World Cup.

“In general I think Bafana have a lot of quality players in Europe and in the league here. And I know that they have a top coach who still has three months to create a fantastic team and to perform well at the World Cup,” Saintfiet said.

“Maybe this game was not their best performance and I think that’s thanks to the Namibian national team, and I think this helps South Africa. If you win every game 3-0 and 6-2, you will not develop your team. And maybe some players will now realise that also small countries like Namibia can get results.

“So maybe it’s a wake-up call, but I’m not afraid Bafana won’t be a good participant of the World Cup.”

Last night’s game was nowhere near what Bafana will experience in the World Cup, in intensity, against a side intent on sitting back and hitting them on the counterattack.

The theory is that the intensity of 2010 and the home crowds, along with the camps in Brazil and Germany, will be the formula for a Bafana playing at a much higher tempo.

From a South African perspective, the first half was about as disappointing as it could have been, and the main reason Bafana drew last night was their failure to take the game by the scruff of the neck from the start.

Saintfiet has done a good job organising Namibia, and of course Bafana are nowhere near full strength. But there was still more than enough home talent on the field to have crafted open at least a pair of goals, if the line-up had played to its potential.

After two nervous moments early on, where Bester was almost allowed free into the area, Teko Modise had the first shot in anger with a curling effort from range that tested Namibia goalkeeper Athiel Mbaha.

In the 33rd minute, Quinton Daniels’s free kick came close enough to shave the top netting.

The Namibians stunned the house when they opened the scoring in the 42nd minute. Tjikuzu beat Bradley Carnell with a great step-over on the left of the Bafana area and played the ball in to Bester, who slotted easily.

Bafana started the second half the way they should have begun the game, and were immediately more positive. The addition of the pacy Tlou Segolela, and later Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Daine Klate and Bryce Moon, injected urgency.

Letsholonyane’s uncomplicated passing set up chances for Segolela and Klate, before a third pass set up Bafana’s equaliser. The Kaizer Chiefs playmaker picked out Moon on the right who squared for Katlego Mphela to sweep in his 10th international goal in the 70th minute of the game.

With 10 minutes left, Segolela turned and burst through, but shot straight at Mbaha, then Letsholonyane shot wide from 30 m.

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