Bafana in winning Nations Cup start
6 September 2010
Bafana Bafana top Group G of African Nations Cup 2012 qualifying after opening their campaign with a 2-0 victory over Niger at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday night.
South Africa could have won by many more goals given the number of opportunities they created, leading to coach Pitso Mosimane bemoaning his side's poor finishing after the game.
His concerns have a lot to do with three-time defending champions Egypt being in the same qualifying pool which, given the qualification criteria, makes goal difference an important factor. The group winners, hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, and the three best second-place finishers will make the finals.
A big favour
Sierra Leone, however, did South Africa a big favour when they held the Pharoahs to a 1-1 draw in Cairo on Sunday. For Egypt, a draw at home is regarded as dropped points.
In Nelspruit, Bafana Bafana exhibited impressive industry and passing, but the bottom line is that it is goals that count and their finishing was not up to scratch. Despite this, there was a lot to be pleased about in their performance.
Coach Pitso Mosimane commented: "I'm happy that we created the chances, but obviously frustrated that we didn't take those chances.
"I think the result was a true reflection of the game because we had so many opportunities."
What Mosimane found difficult to understand was how his team could score a difficult goal, in the case of Bernard Parker's goal, but fail to find the back of the net with much easier chances.
"It's strange," he said. "The second goal by Bernard Parker was a brilliant one. It was a very difficult execution. But we can't finish the easy ones. In the training sessions we worked on finishing, finishing, finishing.
"But we have to be patient – a little bit of maturity and experience is needed."
Ultimately, though, Mosimane had said before the contest that it was "a win at all costs" game, and he got his wish.
Star of the show
Steven Pienaar was the star of the show for Bafana. His insightful passing stood out and he was responsible for setting up Katlego Mphela for South Africa's first goal.
Mphela, too, shone with his hard work and gave the Niger defence fits, but his finishing needs improvement. He combined well with Bernard Parker, whose goal just before half-time was a classy effort.
Bafana took charge of the match from the kick off and imposed their will, style, and pace on the play. Within the first five minutes Parker came close to opening the home team's account with a header, but Niger's goalkeeper Daouda Kassali pulled off a superb save to deny him.
It didn't take long for Bafana to break through, however, and it was Pienaar who provided the scoring pass after he had won the ball in the midfield. He laid on a wonderful ball that gave Mphela plenty of time and space to beat the goalkeeper in a one-on-one.
The Sundowns' striker, showing good composure, chipped Kassali to score. It was his 18th goal in 37 internationals.
Niger created a single opportunity in the opening half, with Moussa Maazou letting fly from long range, but Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was up to the challenge.
Mpela used his strength to create another chance for himself 10 minutes before the break when he won a ball in midfield, beat a defender and shot. Kassali, though, denied him.
Just before the half-time whistle, South Africa's advantage was doubled. Anele Ngcongca, who enjoyed a good game at right back, attacked down the flank and delivered an inviting cross.
Parker then got himself on the end of the ball and volleyed home sweetly with his left foot.
Bafana kept up the pressure after the restart and the excellent Pienaar played in Parker with a through ball, but the goalkeeper saved to his right. Pienaar created another chance, this time for Siphiwe Tshabalala, but Tshabalala's chip attempt passed over the crossbar.
With about 20 minutes to play, Pienaar tried to do the scoring himself, but Kassali, at full stretch, knocked the midfielder's shot away.
Despite South Africa's continuing efforts to add to their tally they couldn't find another goal.
The game ended as an emphatic 2-0 victory for Bafana Bafana, but it could have been so much more. However, Egypt's home draw with Sierra Leone helped shine a more favorable light on South Africa's victory.
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