Bafana Bafana through to semifinals

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bloemfontein - Bafana Bafana are through to the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-finals, despite losing 2-nil to Spain in their last group A match in Free State Stadium last night.

Bafana Bafana will lock horns with the winner of group B in the first semifinal clash at the same stadium on Wednesday.

If the formidable Brazilians beat Italy or draw in their game this afternoon, the national side will have the knotty task of hindering the likes of Kaka, Louis Fabiano and Robinho from scoring.

Joel Santana's men completed group A second on the table with four points after Iraq and New Zealand played a goalless draw at Coca Cola Park in Johannesburg also on Saturday night.

The European Champions, who hold the world record of 15 wins in a row and have a run of 35 unbeaten games, finished first with nine points and will meet group B runner-up at the semifinals.

Bafana Bafana showed great character in their clash against Spain. Their defense, led by Matthew Booth and Captain Aaron Mokoena, gave Fernando Torres and Xavi no space to shoot a goal.

The match, played in front of thousands soccer enthusiasts, went into half time with no goals as both teams failed to convert their scoring chances.

In the second half, Spain was awarded a penalty after Mokoena tackled Cesc Febregas. However, Bafana Bafana goalie, Itumelang Khune, made an incredible double save and denied David Villa the opportunity to convert the penalty.

The Valencia striker was able to correct his mistake within minutes though and scored superb volley, leaving formidable Khune with no chance but to fetch the ball from behind the net.

The 22-year-old Khune made incredible saves during the encounter denying international acclaimed stars like Torres, Xavi and Albert Riera, a chance to score.

South Africa was not let down by Villa's goal as the likes of Teko Modise, Bernard Parker and Steven Pienaar tried to find an equalizer, but the Spanish solid defense took no prisoners.

The match was attended by many dignitaries, among them was Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

After the Chilean referee Pablo Pozo made unmerited judgments against South Africa in the second half, the local players seemingly lost their temper and the game became more physical and resulted in Kagisho Dikgacoi and Modise both receiving yellow cards.

Towards the end of the match Bafana Bafana defenders lost concentration and Fernando Llorente, who had replaced Torres, scored a second goal in the 72nd minute and Spain clinched a win.

Bafana Bafana, who are currently playing exciting football, will have to correct the mistakes they were making last night and improve their tactical abilities to qualify for finals to be played next Sunday at the Coca Cola Park in Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, the Pharaohs of Egypt will play knocked out United States in their last group match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg this afternoon.

For Egypt to qualify for the semifinals, Brazil will have to beat Italy in this afternoon's game in Pretoria's Loftus Stadium and the African Champions will have to beat the United States to gain a maximum of three points.