Tiny Cape Verde dampened South Africa‘s spirits at the Africa Cup of Nations by holding the hosts to 0-0 draw in the rain in the opening game while Morocco were also held to a similar score by Angola.
The inexperienced Cape Verde players defied Bafana Bafana and a big home crowd with a mature, resilient performance to earn a point in Group A.
The visitors had the best chances to score. First, Helson Ramos screwed a shot wide of the right post when clear in the area in the 15th minute, then the same player forced Itumeleng Khune into a scrambling save with a diving header midway through the second half, nearly causing a far worse result for South Africa at the start of the country’s second big football party in three years.
“I’m happy with the performance of the team,” said the Cape Verde coach, Lúcio Antunes. “It’ll make Cape Verde’s 500,000 people happy. Today, I can hold my head up high.”
Conversely, South Africa’s lacklustre form under coach Gordon Igesund continued, and underlined fears the hosts could make even less of an impact at their Africa Cup than they did at their World Cup in 2010.
Bafana Bafana had hardly any goalscoring chances in a stuttering, unimaginative start.
“The guys were very, very nervous out there,” Igesund said. “I’ve never seen them like this.”
Cape Verde’s Ramos and Ryan Mendes looked more dangerous than South Africa’s attack in patches, and Igesund cut a nervous, under-pressure figure on the sideline as he watched his players fail dismally to break down a team with no experience of the big occasion.
“It [the result] means that our team has been well organised,” said Antunes. “Not conceding goals makes the team more confident.”
Lehlohonolo Majoro’s pullback for fellow forward Bernard Parker 10 minutes into the second half briefly lifted South Africa’s 80,000-plus fans and was their best of few attacks, but the ball was scrambled away. The South African supporters blew desperately on their vuvuzelas in response and launched into a Mexican wave in an attempt to get Bafana Bafana going in the second half.
But even Siphiwe Tshabalala, the dreadlocked midfielder who lit up the opening game at the World Cup for South Africa three years ago, could not inspire the home team.
He curled a left-footed free-kick straight into the arms of Josimar Dias in Cape Verde’s goal in his only meaningful contribution in the first half and was substituted early in the second.
South Africa’s midfield faded, leaving its forward line with little to work with.
“The first half was a complete waste of 45 minutes,” said Igesund. “We got a point. I don’t think we deserve too much more than that, to be honest.”