2 - 0
Jun 17, 200914:30 Live
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Stadium: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
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Joel Santana’s relatively young squad faces the Oceania champions after opening the tournament against Iraq.
Considering the home support factor and the technical ability of the players, the South Africans are poised to get at least a point from this encounter.
Despite New Zealand’s 5-0 defeat against Spain last Sunday, South Africa are ready to take on this game seriously. The Bafana have categorically put complacency out of range. Rubin Kazan’s MacBeth Sibaya emphasized the team’s will to perform well against the so-called underdogs.
"Neither Iraq nor New Zealand will be pushovers. They are not champions of their regions for nothing," the midfielder stated before the tournament.
"We all know plenty about Spain, but we must be wary as little is known about either Iraq or New Zealand and that makes them dangerous."
South African supporters were clearly disappointed at the Bafana’s goalless draw in the opening game against Iraq. Bernard Parker’s messy touch just behind the goal line deprived the hosts from enjoying a perfect start to the tournament. Coach Joel Santana, who lamented the result, hopes of improving sooner than later.
“We had a lot of nerves in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but after that the players settled down and we controlled the game,”
“We expected the Iraqis to be more attacking than they were, but they just tried to capitalise on our mistakes and look for free kicks. That made things difficult for us.
“I’m not satisfied with the result and was expecting a win, but this is football. You have days like these. We need four or five points to get through to the semi-finals and now we have one. It is a start.”
In the other match of the opening day, New Zealand were predictably hammered by Spain 5-0 with four of the goals coming in the first half. New Zealand will have to correct their game from the many mistakes that cost them this humiliating score line against La Roja. Coach Riki Herbert is hoping that things will get better for the All Whites. Speaking after their defeat against Spain, he stated:
“We made some changes in the second half and we improved. There were some individual errors and the guys have taken it on the chin, but we can come back from that. Luckily with the earlier result in the group [South Africa 0-0 Iraq], not much damage has been done yet.”
It will be interesting to see how this game unfolds. Will South Africa take advantage of New Zealand’s weaknesses to clinch a much need victory? Will the All Whites stun the hosts to put them in an uncomfortable position?
One thing is sure: At this point of the competition, the teams that lose face the horrible prospect of crushing out of the Confederations Cup very early.