Bafana Bafana took another important step on the road to recovery ahead of the 2010 World cup in June with a stunning 3-0 win over Zimbabwe in their friendly international played at a sweltering Moses Mabhida Stadium.
But it was not until Bafana head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira brought on his cavalry in the second half that the Zimbabwean challenge was subdued. However, Parreira will be pleased by the way his players took charge of the second half after a scrappy first 45 minutes.
The win ends a successful two week camp in Durban in which Bafana also hammered Swaziland 6-2 in a training match last weekend. The big difference on Wednesday was that this was an official match and caps were awarded and the players handed Parreira his first win in three matches in charge of Bafana since he replaced Joel Santana last November.
The former Brazilian World Cup winner is unbeaten in his three matches in charge. The goals all came in the second half from Siphiwe Tshabalala, Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Lucas Thwala. It was the first time that Bafana have played at this superb new stadium that cost R3.2 billion and will feature some of the world top players during the June showpiece.
There was a scare 30 minutes before kick-off when the floodlights tripped but the stadium management had the lights back on within minutes and there was no repeat of the Orlando Stadium fiasco during the MTN8 cup final last year when the floodlights went off for over 40 minutes during that match.
But apart from that the new 75 000 seater stadium built for the 2010 World Cup is magnificent. It is state of the art and will do South Africa proud during the global soccer showpiece which kicks off in June. Bafana failed to fire in the opening 45 minutes. Too many passes went astray in midfield where both Kaizer Chiefs stars Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane lost their focus.
Again Parreira played Tshabalala out of position in a central midfield role where he showed against the Swazis he is not suited. The Chiefs flyer is far more effective on the left wing while Letsholonyane struggled to get his game going in the opening half and was replaced midway through the second half by Ajax Cape Town’s Lance Davids.
Zimbabwe had the Bafana defence under pressure without getting any reward in the first half. Zimbabwe almost capitalised on a sleepy Bafana defence when Cuthbert Malatica was able to get in a free header which lucky for Bafana went centimeters wide of the woodwork after only three minutes.
Zimbabwe keeper Tapuwa Kapini pulled off a stunning save from a 30 metre Teko Modise rocket in the 11th minute that the Platinum Stars goalkeeper did well to punch over his crossbar.
Modise, the Bafana skipper had another shot deflected off the post for a corner in the 34th minute. But had the Orlando Pirates midfielder looked up he would have seen both his strikers Katlego Mphela and Gert Schalkwyk lurking inside the Zimbabwe penalty area and in a better goal scoring position.
Bafana missed another chance on the counter attack five minute later when Mphela’s cross failed to find the unmarked Schalkwyk. Tshabalala showed his class in the 50th minute when he slotted home a tremendous free kick from 25 metres that beat Kapini hands down to put Bafana 1-0 ahead and had the 35 000 strong crowd roaring their approval.
Bafana settled down after scoring the goal and controlled the match. But shots on target were few and far between by either side. Thulasizwe Mbuyane was wide with his first shot in anger in the 69th minute after replacing his Pirates teammate Gert Schalkwyk who scored twice against Swaziland but failed to get going against the better orgnanised Zimbabwe defence.
Bafana substitute Richard Henyekane wasted an easy chance in the 73rd minute when he had the goal at his mercy but he got stage fright, froze and then fired his shot straight into Kapini’s arms. Mbuyane showed that he could be one for Parreira’s camp in Brazil in March when he headed home an inch perfect cross from Siboniso Gaxa in the 74thminute to end Zimbabwe’s resistance.
Franklyn Cale another of the second half ‘cavalry’ again shone as he did against Swaziland and the Mamelodi Sundowns players looks a certainty for the Brazil camp. He impressed by his powerful runs down the left wing and his ability to cut in and deliver accurate crosses.
Thwala added the icing on the cake with an injury time goal. Times Live