Cape Town – Following their 1-1 draw with Mali in Cape Town on Wednesday, Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund admits his team are under pressure to get a result in their final African Nations Championship group game against Nigeria.
Bafana forfeited their half-time lead as Ibourahima Sidibe brought the teams level after the interval, cancelling Bernard Parker’s penalty kick, which sent South Africa ahead on 25 minutes.
“Any team needs to get a result after tonight’s game. The result puts pressure on everybody in the group, because it’s very close,” Igesund said.
“We’ll just continue now and go into our game against Nigeria knowing that every game we play, we play to win.
“Even if we need a draw, we’ll play to win it. This is a very tough group. It’s not going to be one-way traffic.”
South Africa remained top of the group, with a superior goal-difference over Mali, but would need at least a draw against Nigeria on Sunday to progress to the next round.
Nigeria beat Mozambique 4-2 in the game directly after Bafana’s stalemate, leaving South Africa and Nigeria to battle it out for the second qualification spot up for grabs from group A at 7pm Sunday.
Should Igesund’s troops lose to the Super Eagles, Nigeria would overtake the host nation and move to six points, while Mali look a sure bet to beat Mozambique, who became the first team to be eliminated from the competition, conceding seven goals from their two outings.
Speaking ahead of the game, Igesund warned that South Africa would struggle to match the Malians physically, but afterwards said he felt Bafana coped well and, at times, even dominated the exchanges in the middle of the field.
“It was a very tough game out there against a very good team. They defended in numbers and they tried to catch us on the break,” Igesund said.
“We controlled the game in many parts of it. We had a lot more possession, we created situations, we passed the ball well, but we just didn’t get the ball into the back of the net to finish them off.
“There are some good, skilful players in their side but, at the end of the day, the points were shared and on the play, it was probably a fair result.”
Igesund made four changes to his team ahead of the clash and the 56-year-old former Manning Rangers boss said he was particularly impressed by Lindokuhle Mbatha’s performance along the right flank.
“Lindo played very well today. He did exactly what I wanted him to do. We made the changes because we had a plan and I think it worked very well for us today.
“He’s the kind of player that runs at people and goes past players and we saw him do that on a regular basis.
“He must have been very close to being man-of-the-match – he was outstanding.”
A lapse in concentration at the back allowed Mali a way back into the tie, and Igesund said he was disappointed to have conceded the goal, which caught goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune rooted to the spot and beaten for pace and power.
“The goal we conceded, I thought was a soft goal. We weren’t aggressive enough in that situation.
“We should have been more brutal getting the ball away from there. There was a little bit of hesitation and then of course he (Sidibe) struck the ball and struck it well.
“I don’t think we should have allowed that to happen, but that’s football.” – Sapa