Every bit of enthusiasm and positive thinking that went into South
Their vital clash against the South Americans did not quite go to plan. Diego Forlan’s deflected wonderstrike on 24 minutes put the South American’s ahead before Bafana Bafana’s keeper Itumeleng Khune was sent off for bringing down Luis Suarez in the box for Forlan’s late penalty. A scrappy Alvaro Periera goal in stoppage time well and truly wrapped up the win as Uruguay capped off a victory they barely had to even work for. Starting with more tenacity in their play following last Friday’s draw with France, Suarez threatened early by constantly getting in behind the defence. It wasn’t until Forlan’s goal that Uruguay and Coach Oscar Tabarez realised that they perhaps didn’t need to play so far forward. With nothing even remotely happening in attack for the hosts, they went into the break a goal down and needing a change. Changes that didn’t come as they walked out for the second period. Looking tired and blunt, Uruguay spent most of the second period passing the ball around their own half. As Steven Pienaar continued to get caught in possession, and last week’s hero Siphiwe Tshabalala’s shots boomed over the bar, Bafana Bafana looked a beaten side. It wasn’t until Luis Suarez charged into the box to win a penalty that reality sunk in for the fans in attendance. Five minutes followed where Moeneeb Jospehs was stripped of his tracksuit to try and keep them in the game following Khune’s sending off, with Pienaar making way as his poor tournament continued. Forlan’s beautifully stuck penalty sent scores of fans out of the Loftus Versfeld stadium, before Periera’s tap-in finished off the faithful that had stayed. Much press took place following the game, as people looked to shift the blame.
Bafana Bafana’s Carlos Alberto Perriera was first, singling out the referee for his tirade after the match: “The players are annoyed, very disappointed,” said Parreira. “Everyone said it was the worst referee so far.” Talking about the bookings his players received, the Brazilian was particularly critical about some of Swiss referee Massimo Busacca’s decisions: “He was giving yellow cards that weren’t yellow cards. He doesn’t deserve to be here.” Although the comments made by Perreira shocked those in attendance, it has been confirmed that governing body FIFA will not be taking any actions over the ones made. Asides from criticism, Perreira went on to praise their opponents, and in particular Forlan, whose performance inspired his team to victory: “Uruguay are a good team with good players, like Forlan. Their experience told at important moments.”
Bafana Bafana will face France in their last game which will in fact ultimately seal their fate, and all eyes were on the 1998 winner’s game against Mexico on Thursday to see what they offered. The hosts were hoping for a draw to put both teams within a point of them going into the final game. But a 2-0 loss practically counted out both teams chances of qualifying. However it is not mathematically impossible, and Bafana Bafana’s fate will ultimately be decided by their performance in the final game. In the meantime, there is plenty to work on. Steven Pienaar went into the tournament as the host’s star player, with a nation’s hopes resting on his shoulders. But after being taken off twice following poor showings, Coach Perreira will have to think about where to utilise him as his tactics fall short of the mark. There was also disapproval from the media in South Africa surrounding Perreira’s decision to play Katlego Mphela on his own up front, even when they were 2-0 behind. The front-man was left feeding off scraps throughout the game as Bafana Bafana failed to make an impression in the final third.
Despite Wednesday’s loss there are still a few that are keeping their heads up, even if the prospect of goal difference is the only thing doing so. SAFA President Kirsten Nematandani talked after the game, and insisted the fans should continue to cheer the team on: “In football anything is possible and we need that positive energy to encourage our team.” The people at the top are trying to rally the troops, but it will need more than their words to inspire the miracles that need to happen.