South Africa over jitters, confident of first win
Johannesburg: South Africa claim they have shrugged off opening day World Cup jitters and will be much more enterprising against Uruguay on Wednesday.
The players admitted in the wake of their 1-1 draw with Mexico in Friday’s first game of the tournament they were very nervous and fortunate not to be trailing by halftime.
“For most of us it was our first World Cup game,” midfielder Steven Pienaar offered by way of explanation.
But, almost to a man, the South Africa players told reporters a new-found confidence will be evident from the start of Wednesday’s Group A match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
“Our goal is to get to the knockout round and we are confident of doing that,” said central defender Bongani Khumalo.
Fullback Siboniso Gaxa added: “It is very important to win if we want to qualify. We have to start this time on a high note and I know we are going to do our level best.”
South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has suggested four points might be enough to reach the knockout phase -- a possibility that was only a dream just a few months ago when they were the lowest ranked of the 32 finalists.
With a point from the opening match and a final group game to come against former world champions France, Bafana Bafana regard Uruguay as their best hope of claiming a victory.
“We won’t change anything about our plans. It’s all about hard work and confidence and self belief,” added Siphiwe Tshabalala, who scored a stunning goal against Mexico.
His strike helped reinforce the amazing turnaround in fortunes for a South Africa side that has now gone 13 games without defeat over the last eight months.
Uruguay will have similar ambitions in a match they would also have targeted as the easiest of their Group A encounters.
Striker Luis Suarez is likely to be given another chance to make an impression despite failing to sparkle for La Celeste in the way he has for his club Ajax Amsterdam.
Oscar Tabarez’s side, having earned a point with a dogged display in a goalless draw with France in Cape Town on Saturday, will need to go on the attack against South Africa.
“Our next match requires a new dimension. We always say the first game defines how the group will evolve but in this instance the next game now will shape the group,” said Tabarez.
He has lost the option of playing Nicolas Lodeiro, who is suspended after being sent off against France, and is likely to stick with the same lineup as in the opener.
“Suarez didn’t give his best perhaps but there were certain circumstances,” Tabarez said.
“It’s not good to change players who didn’t give their best performances, then they lose even more confidence.”