Bafana Bafana's performance on track - Coach Santana

Friday, June 26, 2009

Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana Coach, Joel Santana, affirmed that despite losing 1-nil to Brazil in the FIFA Confederations Cup semifinal last night, his team was in a transitional phase in improving its game.

He told reporters, shortly after a nail-biting match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, that his players had shown tremendous improvement as they held off the Samba Kings until the last four minutes.

"We are in a transitional phase of improving our game and by next year we will be able to compete and win against the greats.

"We played very well against Brazil. Tactically, my players were excellent and it was in the last minutes that we were unable to defend Daniel Alves's set piece and we were punished.

"Overall, the game was very balanced and it could have gone either way," said Coach Santana, adding that he was disappointed to lose against his country.

Bafana Bafana's hope to reach the tournament's final was dented by Alves who netted a superb free kick against South Africa's in-form goalie Itumeleng Khune in the 88th minute, awarded after Captain Aaron Mokoena recklessly tackled Ramires.

In spite of losing to the Samba Kings, Bafana Bafana has shown great character and played fantastic tactical football, however they once again failed to convert goals thus losing to Coach Dunga's boys.

The thrilling match, attended by President Jacob Zuma among others, saw more than 48 000 fans leaving the stadium with the impression that South Africa has improved its game.

Coach Santana said his players proved that they are in good stead to take on the 2010 FIFA World Cup, adding that perhaps the last performance even surprised Brazil, who appeared to be frustrated by Bafana Bafana's approach.

"We still have another year to sharpen our players for World Cup, and we have gained very important experience by playing and holding a team of Brazil's caliber.

"We knew their characteristics and we tried to neutralise the game by closing down their dangerous players like Louis Fabiano and Kaka.

"Our players must be congratulated for their performance tonight. Brazil took 17 shots at goal and we took 14, that showed that it was a close and difficult game for both teams," said Coach Santana.

He said his players need to develop their fitness and psychological strengths, adding that they will continue to work hard until the 2010 World Cup.

Meanwhile, the Man of the Match, Bafana Bafana's Steven Pienaar told reporters that all his teammates are extremely disenchanted by the loss after they worked hard to press Brazil for 88 minutes, adding however they all played well.

"Football is unfair - but at the end of the day, there must be one winner, and tonight it was Brazil. I wish them all the best in the final," said the distraught Pienaar.

South Africa will now have to beat Spain, who were outshined by USA 2-nil on Wednesday, to find a third position in a match to be played on Sunday at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

On the other hand, the Samba Kings will lock horns with the USA in the FIFA Confederations Cup final at the Ellis Park Stadium on the same day.