South Africa lost all their pool matches in Tokyo and will now return home, perhaps saving their worst performance for last, when a victory by two goals against Mexico would have seen them advance to the quarter-finals.
“It was very disappointing, especially in the first half. Again, defensive mistakes robbed us of any chance of [qualifying] to the next round. At 2-0 [down] going into the break, it was far off from us,” said coach David Notoane.
“We were not really in the game, we did not push Mexico. They pushed us.
“We knew we were playing against a very efficient team, a team that is well drilled in their patterns of attack. A team that is very strong in breaking down your middle. And we made those two mistakes from central areas [for Mexico goals].
“I thought second half we managed to get a bit of life into the boys to go after the game, but unfortunately we conceded the third goal. It was a difficult evening with not much in the legs of the boys after the France game, which took a lot out of us and it showed today.
“We are disappointed to be out of the tournament. But I think we can take a lot of lessons in terms of how mistakes are punished at this level. The boys gave it their best shot under very difficult conditions,” said Notoane
The coach believes the experience, as difficult as it was for the players, will stand them in good stead in the future.
“We just now have to knuckle down, dust ourselves off and face the South African public in terms of having disappointed them with their expectations in us. It comes with the game, we have to show emotional intelligence and maturity, and be accountable for the results we faced here in Tokyo.
“Hopefully the boys will take this experience into Bafana Bafana as we strive to make the senior national team better.”
Meanwhile, the draw for the rescheduled 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon will be held in Yaounde on August 17, the organisers said on Thursday.
It was originally set for June 25 in the Cameroonian capital only to be delayed by coronavirus pandemic issues. The 24-team premier African football tournament has twice been postponed because of Covid-19 and is now due to kick off on January 9 and conclude on February 6.
Algeria will defend a trophy they won in Cairo two years ago by defeating Senegal 1-0 in the final.
Cameroon are hosting the Cup of Nations for the first time since 1972, when only eight countries competed and Congo Brazzaville triumphed.
The other 22 qualifiers are Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Comoros, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.