Bafana hold Pharaohs
BAFANABafana edged ever closer to the 2012 African Nations Cup last night, keeping their cool in fiery Cairo and calmly killing off the dreams of the reigning African champions in a goalless draw.
The Cairo Military Stadium rose to applaud Pitso Mosimane’s side at the end, at the same time as the vented their fury at their own team, who have had an abysmal qualifying campaign.
Bafana, by contrast, are rising in stature by the day and should actually have emerged from the Egyptian capital with all three points.
Katlego Mphela and Tlou Segolela both found themselves one-on-one with Pharaohs goalkeeper Essam el Hadary, but neither could finish the job.
South Africa would now qualify with a win against Niger in Niamey in September, though a point may well suffice, with a home match against Sierra Leone to come.
Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane was forced to leave his captain, Steven Pienaar, out of the side after the midfielder failed to recover in time from a knee injury.
Reneilwe Letsholonyane, as expected, came in on the right side of midfield, while Siphiwe Tshabalala took over the captain’s armband.
Egypt coach Hassan Shehata recalled striker Mohammed Zidan to the Pharaohs line-up, partnering him in attack with Mohamed Abdel Zaher.
Mahmoud Shikabala sat dangerously just behind the front two.
Roared on by a capacity 22 000 crowd, singing and chanting their lungs out, Egypt started brightly with Sunderland winger Ahmed el Mohamady causing Tsepo Masilela problems down the right, with the Maccabi Haifa fullback lucky not to be booked for a rash challenge inside the second minute.
Zidan and Shikabala were running lines left and right at the Bafana defence, and at first it seemed this would be a true rearguard action from Bafana.
Slowly, however, Mosi- mane’s side began to find their way, keeping the ball with far more alacrity than they managed in the home victory at Ellis Park.
Letsholonyane was a revelation on the right of midfield, buzzing around with tireless determination. Tshabalala was also relishing his role as captain, and sent a sign of Bafana’s attacking possibilities after 20 minutes, with a delightful through-ball for Mphela, who pulled wide left, but had little support.
Egypt again looked a pale shadow of a side that has won the last three African Nations Cups. Their delivery from set pieces was particularly dreadful, Shikabala’s efforts often failing to get off the ground.
Tshabalala’s were far better, and from Bafana’s first corner Siyabonga Sangweni might have opened the scoring, but El Hadary clawed out his nearpost header.
The Bafana captain then lashed in a shot from 30m out that El Hadary had to fly to his right to push away.
Egypt did their best to press Bafana, but they threatened little, with Kagiso Dikgacoi and Andile Jali mopping up well in front of the back four, and the defence mostly composed in dealing with Egypt’s attacks.