Nations Cup opens with damp squibs

BAFANA FIRE BLANKS::Cape Verde, the smallest country ever to appear in the African Cup of Nations, earned a point on their tournament debut by holding South Africa


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 - Page 19

The opening day of the Africa Cup of Nations produced a brace of drab goalless draws with hosts South Africa in particular disappointing tens of thousands of fans at Soccer City.

The 1996 champions were first to take to the rain-drenched pitch, but any dreams of getting off to a flyer were quickly dampened as tiny Cape Verde more than held their own.

South Africa coach Gordon Igesund was frank in his appraisal of the game, but any damage in failing to win was offset when Morocco were held to an equally unappetizing 0-0 stalemate by Angola later.

With the first two teams going through to the quarter-finals, it is very much all to play for in Group A.

“I was really disappointed by the first half, we lacked creativity, we were nervous, playing at 100mph, it was a wasted 45 minutes,” Igesund said.

“The second half wasn’t much better. We weren’t able to create any chances, we only produced a couple of shots, that’s not enough,” he said.

“We have two games left, and we need to win, we’re under pressure. We need to beat Angola now on Wednesday,” he said.

Despite the limp start, Igesund, remained hopeful that South Africa’s Nations Cup party could extend beyond the first round.

“We’ve got a point and we haven’t conceded a goal and we remain optimistic that we can go through to the next round,” he said.

For Cape Verde, with population of a mere 500,000 making them the smallest country ever to appear in the competition, it was a superb debut in hostile conditions.

While defending in droves, Lucio Antunes’ side, who shocked Cameroon in the qualifiers, also produced the only two half-decent chances of the match, from Platini and Heldon.

“My players were fantastic, and we achieved our main objective which was not to lose and it was important not to concede a goal,” Antunes said.

“We’ve got a point, and we have to continue to strive for points, against Morocco next,” he said. “We wanted to honor Cape Verde, and we can leave here with our heads held high.”

The best-case scenario for South Africa concerning the outcome of Saturday’s late game was an identical result and their prayers were answered.

Lanky Angola striker Manucho from Spanish La Liga club Real Valladolid almost snatched a winner in the dying minutes when his low header off a cross flew just wide of the far post.

“We played well, satisfactorily for the opening game. I’m not frustrated at not scoring, there are still two games to go in the first round and I’ll try to improve,” Manucho said.

Morocco coach Rachid Taoussi suggested turning out after South Africa and Cape Verde had given his players added incentive to win.

“It’s a positive result for us, and we’ll be trying to get a better one in our second outing and be sharper in front of goal,” he said.

Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin reflected: “We’ve all come away with 0-0 draws and we keep the same chances as before.”