Angola may have done Bafana a favour by missing a clutch of late chances in last night's goalless draw with Morocco, but their generosity will not extend to Wednesday night's second Group A clash in Durban.
"Our next game [against Angola] is going to be tougher," predicted Bafana midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala after his side's own scoreless stalemate, with minnows Cape Verde. "We will have to see where we went wrong, and minimise our mistakes."
He denied Bafana had been surprised by the resilience of the Blue Sharks, representing an island nation of just 500 000 souls. "We didn't undermine them," said Tshabalala. "To be in the Afcon at all shows that you are a decent side. So credit must go them. Overall, we played well but we didn't find our strikers."
Two grim goalless draws on a wet evening provided an uninspiring opening to the 2013 Africa Nations Cup. But Cape Verde's charismatic coach Lucio Antunes was thrilled with his side's sterling defensive effort in their maiden Nations Cup performance.
"A draw was a fair result, and I'm very pleased with the achievement and what we've done for our country tonight," he said. "We showed we were very solid at the back, which is the basis of any good team. And we've been working on this for five years."
Antunes, a former air-traffic controller, has been in his position for three years, and spent two years as assistant before becoming head coach. The 46-year-old was mentored by Real Madrid coach José Mourinho, who rates his abilities highly.
'Quite a good team'
Bafana midfielder May Mahlangu praised the Blue Sharks' defensive quality. "They're quite a good team," he said. "As you saw, they were well organised, and we couldn't break them down. We were a little bit nervous in the first half. But that's normal. And we're looking forward to the next game, and we hope to bring home three points."
He denied that the home crowd's boos at the final whistle had rattled Bafana. "The crowd did a great job—they supported us throughout. And there are still two games to go, so we have to stay positive. And we are positive."
Kagisho Dikgacoi agreed. "The spirit is still there. It's only the first game, and we didn't lose. The result wasn't what we were expecting, but we have to move on."
"We have to do our post-mortem and rectify the mistakes. It is a fact that we haven't scored for three games now, but we do have quality strikers. We just have to go back to the training ground and work on it."
In the second fixture, Morocco showed flashes of excellence, especially after Montpellier striker Younes Belhanda came on in the second half. But Angola dominated for long spells, and their pace and physicality will worry Bafana coach Gordon Igesund ahead of Durban's showdown at Moses Mabhida Stadium. The Palancas Negras' star striker Manucho, despite missing two inviting late chances, looked a potent threat.
With all the sides deadlocked on one point and no goals, Group A is wide open. But Bafana should expect both the Angolans and Moroccans to prevail over Cape Verde—which means that the hosts need victory on Wednesday to avoid a depressing first-round exit.