A much improved second-half showing earned 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa a 3-0 win over Zimbabwe on Wednesday in their first friendly match of the year.
Midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala put Bafana Bafana ahead by scoring directly from a 50th-minute free-kick, and late goals from substitute Thulasizwe Mbuyane and defender Lucas Thwala sealed the success.
An all-local South African squad has been camping in Durban since mid-January, and this ultimately comfortable victory followed a 6-2 training-match rout of Swaziland last Saturday.
While the goal flow has come against opponents nowhere near the strength of World Cup Group A rivals Mexico, Uruguay and France, it will boost confidence after Bafana managed just 10 in 18 games last year.
“I am happy with the result after the team prepared well for the match,” said coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who returned for a second spell in charge last November after fellow Brazilian Joel Santana was sacked.
“The team did not play well in the first half, making far too many mistakes and giving the ball away needlessly, but we got our act together after halftime to win impressively.
“We applied pressure, marked tighter and prevented Zimbabwe building from the back. Now the players must learn to retain possession better and cut out silly errors,” said the 1994 Brazil World Cup-winning coach.
Zimbabwe coach Sunday Chidzambwa, who captained his country in their first international appearance after independence 30 years ago, said he was building for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers starting later this year.
“After doing very well in the first half, we conceded two stupid goals, and let us hope the youngsters in the team learn. I believe we will have a strong side after the Europe-based stars are included,” he said.
When Tshabalala was fouled outside the penalty area he took the free-kick and beat goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini with a curling shot over the wall and into the corner of the net.
South Africa stretched the Zimbabwe defence across the pitch before defender Siboniso Gaxa crossed for Mbuyane to score the second with an unstoppable near-post header on 77 minutes.
Having made five second-half changes, Bafana Bafana completed the scoring one minute into stoppage time when a complex corner routine concluded with a cross that Thwala rose to meet to steer under the body of Kapini. – AFP