Wednesday, 16 June 2010

South Africa 0, Uruguay 3: Sometimes, you just despair

Aren’t you glad you don’t have to watch South American football every week? The dives, the play-acting, the constant niggle. And oh, the pain they go through after every sliding tackle as they roll and roll.

Uruguay pulled out all their old Latin skills last night – though a masterful Diego Forlan can take an untainted bow. But in truth the 16th best side in the world were far from impressive as they engineered a route past South Africa, the lowest ranked hosts in the history of the World Cup.

From a distance it may look different. Uruguay dominated, stroked the ball about, keeping possession for long periods. Then came what looked like the first authentic screamer of the tournament from outside the box. Diego Forlan’s effort appeared perfect with the ultra-light Jabulani ball, which dipped for the first time in the tournament, flying in just under the bar.

But examine it closely and Forlan’s 24th-minute rasper took a touch off the neck of Portsmouth’s Aaron Mokoena, winning his 102nd cap for Bafana Bafana last night. That’s why what looked a masterful strike from Forlan actually owed a lot to appearances.

And that’s what this 3-0 victory amounted to. Might look good to fans from that part of the world, to television commentators distracted by the vuvuzela but sheez, if Luiz Suarez went down with one more injury in a land without a National Health Scheme, his insurers may have fled the country.

All that became irrelevant when, after 76 frustrating minutes, home goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune – less than confident in front of 60,000 at an officially freezing Loftus Versfeld last night – was sent off.

Not because he committed an awful foul but because Luiz Suarez – yes, him again – produced a swan dive of such epic proportions, Swiss referee Massimo Busacca would have been insensitive not to offer his sympathies and a card. After all, Suarez had gone down at least twice before demanding a spot kick. And there was slight contact.

But the eagle-eyed television cameras will tell you Suarez was off-side anyway. Not that it mattered.

So, Khune sent off muttering, penalty, and Monieb Josephs on for his first touch of the World Cup. Up stepped Forlan, whose dad Pablo played in the 1966 World Cup, and stuck it into the top corner.

Pereira added another to complete a night of utter misery at a stadium more used to watching the charging Blue Bulls win rugby games.

For once, the vuvuzelas were silenced. Anger, disappointed, despair for the Rainbow Nation, who had enjoyed their World Cup journey so much in the build-up to this game. Then they came up against the cynical reality of world football at the top level.

Just ask Costa Rica, the CONCACAF nation they beat in the play-offs as CONMEBOL’s fifth-best side. I wasn’t there, but I know that still rankles with those who were. Google it.

The solution? I can only suggest a course in drama for a baffled Bafana Bafana. Or law. And perhaps urge Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira to push men forward a little more when his side are winning ball in the midfield. Though he won the World Cup in 1994, I guess he knew what he was doing.

Thus ended South Africa’s 14-match unbeaten run, extending back to when Parreira resumed his duties last November. The longest unbeaten run in football, only Holland (20) and Portugal (17) can offer better here.

What remains? France, for South Africa, in an even chillier Bloemfontein. Uruguay finish against Mexico. I fear the hosts, for the first time in the history of the World Cup, will fail to reach the knock-out stages. They were very poor last night.

On the night, they were too lightweight, too excited – particularly Siphiwe Tshabalala, who scored that screamer in the opening game against Soccer City and let it go to his head.

Captain Mokoena said: "That was unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. We lost our belief, stopped playing. We still have France to play. We have to bounce back."

The great disappointment? Everton’s player of the year Steven Pienaar. The great engine he showed us in the Premier League last winter looked like it needed oil, the lung-bursting runs at altitude just weren’t there.

This piece is written with a heavy heart. This earlier piece wasn't. See


  1. Either you are being sarcastic, or we watched different matches last night Neal. Bafana were totally outplayed. It was an absolute clear cut penalty. The guy may have been offside, but that is clutching at straws and deflecting attention away from a very poor display by Bafana.
    The saddest sight was the hundreds of spectators making for the exit with 10 minutes left. Last week's parade through Sandton is a distant memory.

  2. Yeah, written with a heavy heart this piece. A lot of the colour will be knocked out of the World Cup by what happened last night. Yes, they were outplayed but the Uruguayans were cynical, the South Africans naive. Clear-cut penalty? Lovely dive, slight touch, and the bloke is offside? Can't imagine anybody accepting sound like you're enjoying South Africa's demise... why?

  3. Definitely not enjoying Bafana's demise. I want them to go as far as possible to keep the fantastic vibe going. Penalties like that are given week in week out. All part of the game. Keeper should not have come out feet first, left the referee little choice.
    Went to Nelson Mandela Square yesterday to soak up a bit of atmosphere. Brilliant to see all the foreign supporters. Bumped into David Moyes who says he's enjoying South Africa. He's not supporting England of course. Horrible rip off with a pint of Castle at R35.
    Went to the Sony exhibition and have now booked to watch the final in 3D at Nu Metro.

  4. Congratulations for the great match played by England today!! ... against such a difficult rival!!Argelia!!! Regards from Uruguay, fortunately I see South American football all the weekends, not the English sad game. Only a few days to say to England goodbye of the world cup...

  5. You win! Uruguay it is. But you watch the Premier League week in week out and these players... ah, forget it.