New Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana now knows how hard he will have to work to earn his massive R1,5-million monthly salary and build a competitive team for the 2010 World Cup finals after his first game in charge ended in disappointing 2-0 defeat by Nigeria in the opening 2010 African Nations Cup Group Four qualifier at the Abuja National Stadium in Nigeria on Sunday.
It was a poor start to Bafana’s qualifying campaign. The South Africans never looked like upsetting the confident Super Eagles. In fact, their Israel-based goalkeeper, Victor Enyeama, could have take the day off as the goal-shy Bafana strikers failed to test him during the 90 minutes.
Bafana lacked commitment and purpose. At times Nigeria slowed the game down to walking pace, showing no respect for their opponents.
Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena became South Africa’s most capped player when he made his 75th appearance for his country, beating Shaun Bartlett’s record of 74 caps. But it will not be a happy memory for the Blackburn Rovers defender.
The Bafana defence was a shambles in the opening half, in which the Super Eagles dominated and the home side deserved their 2-0 lead at half-time.
Santana is going to have to teach his defenders how to defend set pieces.
The South Africans looked shaky when defending corners, free kicks and crosses into the penalty area.
The Super Eagles at one stage slowed the game down and toyed with the disappointing Bafana, who did not have the will or energy to try to claw their way back and try salvage, if not a point, at least some pride from this one-sided clash.
Bafana almost created an opening in the fourth minute when Surprise Moriri raced down the right flank, but teammate Steven Pienaar failed to connect his cross. Five minutes later midfielder Delron Buckley hesitated when in a great goal-scoring position and, instead of going for goal, he opted to pass to Bryce Moon and the chance to score was lost.
But the home side got the perfect start in the 10th minute when Getafe midfielder Ike Uche took advantage of the absent Bafana defenders — the diminutive Spain-based star rose to thud home a free header from a John Utaka cross, giving keeper Rowen Fernandez no chance.
Fernandez, who had a busy half, pulled of a great save from Olympique Marseille star Taye Taiwu, who tested the Bafana keeper with a powerful shot in the 29th minute.
Bafana’s best effort came from a 42nd-minute free kick by Kagisho Dikgacoi, which flew centimetres past the upright.
Fernandez did well to deny Utaka a goal with a brave one-on-one save a minute from the break.
But in first-half injury time, Fernandez was again let down by his defence when Obinna Nwaneri rose to head home John Obi Mikel’s corner to crush Bafana before they went in for their half-time team talk.
The match slowed to a pedestrian pace at the start of the second half, with the Nigerians keeping possession and Bafana not being able to do anything about Nigeria’s dominance. In the end it turned out to be an easy win for the home side, who were never in trouble.
Bafana substitute Terror Fanteni, who earlier replaced a tired looking Buckley, unleashed a rocket that flew over the crossbar in the 66th minute.
In the other Group Four clash played on Sunday, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone drew 0-0. Bafana host Equatorial Guinea at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium this Saturday. — Sapa