Bafana's Uphill Struggle

The huge goal difference makes it almost impossible to qualify, meaning that the South Africans will have to beat France by an avalanche of goals in their last Group A match next week and also hope that the result between Mexico and France today favours them.

To add more woes for Bafana, the hosts will face the Frenchmen without goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and defensive midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi.

Khune was given a straight red card after a clumsy tackle inside the penalty area, while Dikgacoi received his second yellow card of the tournament.

But nonetheless, it was a night of incessant “oohs” and “aahs” for the enthusiastic crowd who blew their vuvuzelas, chanted wildly and boogied regardless of the icy conditions. With the cold front that swept right through the province, a lot of empty seats were expected but the fans were not going to let an opportunity or the weather stop them from becoming part of history. By comparism, the vuvuzela decibels were far louder than at the opening ceremony at Soccer City last week.

As expected, Carlos Alberto Parreira made one change to the side that played against Mexico. He started with Tsepo Masilela at left back in the place of Lucas Thwala. The hosts showed a slight improvement from their match against Mexico where they spent a lot of time back tracking.

Last night, Bafana worked extremely hard but sometimes you just need to work smart instead. Uruguay did not have to do much to beat their out-of-sorts opponents except to do the basics and show their class.

With Parreira’s “so-called” wingers Siphiwe Tshabalala and Teko Modise squeezed by Uruguay’s 4-3-3 formation, lone striker Katlego Mphela was forced to fetch deep. The only scoring chance that was created for Mphela was on the 40th minute when his glancing header flew inches over the crossbar.

The entire country fell into the kind of quietness you find at a monk’s funeral when Diego Forlan’s long range strike saw the South Americans racing into a quick lead in the 23rd minute.

The Atletico Madrid forward unleashed a pile-driver and as the ball bounced off the crossbar and into the net, Bafana’s body language was so poor that there were more hands-on head than in a classroom of children playing “Simon Says”.

Parreira replaced Reneilwe Letsholonyane with Surprise Moriri in the second half but it was too little too late. Steven Pienaar was the sacrificial lamb and he made way for reserve goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs after Khune’s sending-off.

Forlan completed his brace with a well-taken penalty following Khune’s foul and Alavaro Pereira scored the third injury-time. It is not too late for the South African coach to re-think his tactics and sacrifice one player between Modise and Pienaar and to throw in a second striker.

The referee’s handling of the game left much to be desired as he was hard on Bafana.

Parreira blasted referee Massimo. He was furious with the Swiss official, who he felt was not up to the standard of the tournament, despite TV replays showing he made the correct call to award a penalty and dismiss Khune.

“I haven’t seen it properly because there were players in front of me,” Parreira said.

“But the players are annoyed, very disappointed. Everyone said it was the worst referee so far. He was giving yellow cards that weren’t yellow cards.

“He doesn’t deserve to be here.”

Despite the defeat, which will come as a crushing blow to the hopes of the hosts, Parreira insisted that his side still had a chance of qualifying for the second round.

“Uruguay are a good team with good players, like Forlan,” he added.

“Their experience told at important moments.

“Our hopes are not over. We need to beat France, but we will have to be more aggressive.” Sowetan/News 24