Shouts of “Ole” rang around the Estadio Morumbi, and they walked off the field to an ovation from the home fans. Brazil’s players may have been used to applause like this over the years, only this wasn’t Brazil receiving the crowd’s adulation.
Instead, it was Bafana Bafana, subjected more to ridicule than rapture in recent times, who won the hearts of Brazilian fans with their own side’s stuttering performance winning mainly boos.
Gordon Igesund’s charges eventually went down to a fourth successive defeat to Brazil on Friday, courtesy of Hulk’s superb late strike, but Bafana’s new coach can take immense credit from the way his side, missing key players and on only a few days’ preparation, gave a serious fright to their more highly regarded opponents.
“I was very satisfied with the performance,” said Igesund afterwards.
“We really matched them. It is not easy to come to Brazil, play in front of 50 000 people and out-play them.
“I thought we did that. The most important thing was not to be scared. If we lost, we lost, but we wanted to see what we could do.”
Igesund had spoken before-hand of letting the Selecao know they were in for a game with a couple of early tackles.
And Siyabonga Sangweni certainly responded, putting the full force of his weight on a perfectly legitimate tackle that left Brazilian superstar Neymar feeling the effects for a while afterwards.
“It was a fair tackle and that was what we wanted; you have to let opponents know they are in a game.
“Neymar is a great player, although he’s not in the class of a Messi, but for 80 minutes he was nowhere.
“We took care of him in a professional way.”
Neymar did actually have Brazil’s best chance of the opening half, drawing a fantastic save from Itumeleng Khune.
But Brazil’s play was generally lateral when not static, with a lot of sideways passing, their players continually hassled and harried off the ball by Bafana’s fiery energy.
Coach Mano Menezes’ side have come in for plenty of criticism since only capturing Olympic silver at London 2012.
And it didn’t get any better for them here, booed off at half-time by a disgruntled public.
South Africa created one early chance from which Siboniso Gaxa might have done better when one-on-one with Brazil ’keeper Diego Alves.
But it was at the start of the second-half that Bafana really took the game to Brazil, and with a little more luck, might have snatched the lead.
“The second-half was better, we were more offensive,” said Igesund.
“In the first-half we were disciplined, and we didn’t give away too many chances. But I thought we could have taken the lead in the first 12 or so minutes of the second-half.
“Yet I’m very satisfied with the attitude and commitment of the players, I felt they were proud to put on the jersey and I’m proud of them.”
Igesund enjoyed little luck with injuries in his first camp in charge of Bafana, especially in the striking department.
Siyabonga Nomvethe and Edward Manqele were ruled out of the trip to Brazil, and on Friday, Dino Ndlovu went off after half an hour with a suspected dislocated shoulder, while Benni McCarthy pulled a hamstring just 10 minutes after coming on as a replacement.
Bernard Parker came on, and as Igesund said, “did very well”.
Some might question the wisdom of calling up McCarthy, seemingly increasingly injury-prone at 34 years old.
“Benni was great here in camp, and showed a very good attitude,” said Igesund, however.
“It was unfortunate to lose two strikers in a matter of minutes. I hope the injuries are not too bad. I don’t like it when players come to the national team and go back to their clubs injured.”
Bafana left Brazil yesterday evening and were expected in South Africa this morning, to connect to a flight to Nelspruit, where they face Mozambique in another friendly on Tuesday.
Igesund admitted he was going to have to call up some attacking replacements.
“I’ll have a meeting with the doctor, and then I’ll decide. There are one or two I left back in South Africa.”
Igesund will also be without midfield general Kagiso Dikgacoi, who left last night to return to his London club Crystal Palace.
Helsingborgs midfielder May Mahlangu, however, will be making the trip to Nelspruit.
“It’s a good warm up, but I’ll also throw people in and look at situations,” said Igesund of the Mozambique game.
“It’s not about winning these games, what happens happens. I don’t mind if we lose, what is important is that we go into the Africa Cup of Nations with a well drilled machine that can possibly win the tournament.” – Sunday Independent