Johannesburg – Hosts South Africa did not handle the pressure of the occasion in the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday night, according to head coach Gordon Igesund.
Bafana Bafana were held to a goalless draw by Cape Verde Islands at the National Stadium (FNB Stadium), as they continued their struggle to find the back of the net.
Igesund had harsh words for his players, who failed to please the home crowd, particularly in a lacklustre first period.
“The first half for me was a complete waste of 45 minutes because we kept trying to miss out on our midfield by knocking balls into the front all the time, instead of being more comfortable with the ball,” Igesund said.
“The guys looked like they were panicking.
“Everything was at 100 miles an hour. We needed to put our foot on the ball, pass the ball around, which we didn't do at all until the second half.”
Igesund shielded his strikers, who had received plenty of criticism in the build-up to the tournament, and said few chances had been created in the match.
“The guys were very, very nervous out there,” he said.
“I've never seen them like this since I've been with the team. They just weren't passing the ball the way they can and are able. We weren't keeping possession.”
The coach said Cape Verde, 15 spots ahead of South Africa in the Fifa rankings, had done well to shut them out and he was satisfied to take a single point from the match.
“We have so many skilful players in our team and today nerves got to them, and they just didn't keep the ball,” Igesund said.
“Credit to Cape Verde. They came and defended well, they played well in patches and they didn't allow us to get in behind them at all.
“You could see they were playing for a draw and we were just desperately trying to get the goal that we needed so badly.
“Obviously we didn't do that and we didn't create the opportunities to do that.”
Igesund believed the transition play was too rushed.
“I'm not sure, but I think we only had one or two shots in the whole game, which is not enough,” he said.
“We need to create more chances, we need more creativity in the middle of the park and use the ball better.
“I wanted to be very offensive and take the game to them, but there are a couple of players who didn't quite get their foot on the ball. We didn't rise to the occasion.”
With Angola and Morocco also playing to a 0-0 draw in the second match of the opening day's double header, all four teams in Group A were left level on one point with no goal difference to separate them.
South Africa play their next match against Angola in Durban on Wednesday, while Cape Verde face Morocco later in the evening. – Sapa