KEIR RADNEDGE in BRASILIA: At the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, South Africa’s footballers stunned Brazil with a 3-1 group stage win in Brisbane.
That proved, however, to be the only game which the South Africans won. Already beaten by Japan, they lost days later to Slovakia and went home.
Coach Owen Da Gama does not intend to allow Brazilian history to repeat itself. He made the point clear after Bafana Bafana held Rio favourites Brazil goalless in their opening Group A tie last night in the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia.
South Africa, playing with energy, organisation, commitment and enough pace on the break to unnerve Brazilian fans, were well worth a point secured despite having to play the last halfhour with 10 men after the expulsion of Mothobi Mvala.
Brazil captain Neymar tried hard to turn the game but the closest Brazil came to a breathrough was when centre-forward Gabriel Jesus hit the post in an increasingly frenetic second half.
South Africa coach Owen Da Gama said he thought that his tournament strategy had been suited by starting with the daunting task of confronting the hosts and favourites.
He said: “Brazil are by far the No1 team here and I think that helped us go to another level. Our approach was to defend as a team and try to make it as difficult as possible for them. But I told my players before the game that, as much as you respect Brazil, don’t be scared of them. Play your normal football and enjoy it.
“It was unfortunate that we were on the back foot after we got the red card otherwise something else could have happened because we had created some occasions of our own. Playing Brazil with 11 v 11 is one thing but with 10 v 11 it’s even more difficult.”
Gama praised captain Keagan Dolly as “one of the best in the world” but equally outstanding were goalkeeper Itu Khune and defenders Abbubaker Mobaro and Rivaldo Coetzee.
Mobaro’s relentlessly close attention to Neymar clearly frustrated the Brazilian captain while Coetzee – named after the old Brazlian superstar – declared himself “over the moon” with both the chance to play and the result.
He said: “We knew Brazil were under pressure here. There’s a lot weighing on them and we used that to our advantage. The longer the match went on, the more the fans were getting on their backs. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
“Keeping a clean sheet after playing with 10 men for most of the second half is something we can build on but we need to get back on the training ground and make sure that we take our own chances when we get them.”
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