SOUTH AFRICA VS CAPE VERDE
Pressure and atmosphere, atmosphere and pressure. They can either visibly lift performance on host nations or render them to drown in a sea of self-doubt; there is no middle ground. Opening games usually set the tone for the rest of the tournament, or so they say. The script usually goes like this: the host team wins. As long as the host team win, everything is fine. But South Africa didn’t win. If they’ve set the tone for the tournament, it’s an abysmal one. With a 0-0 draw in the other Group A match between Morocco and Angola, this was the first time there have been two 0-0 draws on the opening day. The only way is up.
International football has, of course, become about establishing a cohesive unit either through sticking with a cadre of players in the medium-long term, like Zambia, or plucking a phalanx of individuals from a handful of club teams, like the epochs of Spanish and Egyptian football have shown. While South Africa have defensive dignity formed largely from well-resourced teams in Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, their attacking armour is severely lacking. Constructing simple moves seems to be an arduous task, one which shows no sign of improving on the basis of this game.
Bafana Bafana incoherency exacerbated by curveballs
South Africa coach Gordon Igesund had been mischievously keeping everyone guessing about the identity of his starting XI versus Cape Verde throughout the week, and when he named it an hour and a half before kick off there were curveballs which induced wide-eyed wonder in many. In a surprising move, striker Katlego ‘Killer’ Mphela, who started the recent warm-up friendlies against Algeria and Norway, and Thulani Serero, who started against Algeria and came off the bench against Norway, both started on the bench. In a way it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, for both of the players have only returned from long-term injuries, but it still was. In their place came in Kaizer Chiefs duo Lehlohonolo Majoro and Bernard Parker – a move that made sense given the Bafana Bafana’s lack of understanding in attack and their club connection – whilst Thabo Matlaba was chosen ahead of the experienced Tsepo Masilela at left-back.