Benni McCarthy created a record and South Africa equalled one as they outclassed Paraguay 3-0 in a lively international friendly on Wednesday.
Blackburn Rovers striker McCarthy headed the crucial second goal two minutes after half-time at Super Stadium near Pretoria to overtake retired Shaun Bartlett and become the leading national team scorer with 30 goals.
And the deserved three-goal winning margin equalled the best achieved by 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa since their readmittance to international football 16 years ago after three decades of racism-induced isolation.
It was also the first triumph for 2008 African Nations Cup flops Bafana Bafana over South American opposition, ending a nine-match win-less run spanning 13 years.
Surprise Moriri gave South Africa a 31st-minute lead with a superb volley and fellow midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala confirmed the superiority of the highly motivated home team with a lobbed third goal on 63 minutes.
The result was a massive boost for under-fire Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and his players after a wave of criticism from politicians, including the sports minister and the head of a parliamentary sports committee.
”We are growing and beat a very good team tonight [Wednesday]. The attitude of the players was positive and I was impressed by the way they retained possession,” said 1994 World Cup-winning coach Parreira.
And the Brazilian, who retaliated last weekend by telling his critics to ”shut up” and concentrate on politics, should be proud as South Africa toyed with South America World Cup qualifying pacesetters Paraguay at times.
Parreira, hired last year to mould a team capable of reaching at least the knockout phase of the next World Cup, could even afford the luxury of taking off all his scorers during the second half.
Paraguay suffered a cruel blow midway through the first half when leading striker Roque Santa Cruz had to retire with an ankle injury after being tackled by Blackburn teammate and South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena.
The South Americans appeared rattled by the commitment of South Africa from the kick-off and rarely troubled young goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who grows in confidence with each appearance.
Bafana Bafana had much the better of the early exchanges in perfect conditions and went ahead when Moriri superbly controlled a Tshepo Masilela cross on his chest before unleashing an unstoppable volley past Justo Villar.
Moriri turned creator for the second goal, crossing to the far post where an otherwise subdued McCarthy rose between two Paraguayans and headed the ball low into the corner.
The final goal was another gem from a team that managed just three in as many Nations Cup games in Ghana two months ago as McCarthy supplied Tshabalala, whose lob drifted over captain Villar. — AFP