Uruguay deflates South African hopes
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
Uruguay's players celebrate after teammate Alvaro Pereira scored against South Africa. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)
PRETORIA - If support could win football matches, South Africa might well win the World Cup.
But it takes a little more than football madness, horns and wishing.
The South African's that weren't in the stadium were glued to their television sets Wednesday as the Bafana Bafana took on Uruguay in the second game of their group play.
Even with a nation willing them on, South Africa couldn't deliver, losing 3-0 to Uruguay.
Yes, it was that bad.
It was South Africa's first loss in 14 games.
But it was more than the loss on the field.
Should South Africa not advance to the second round, it will be the first home team to fail to advance.
Then the questions begin about what this would mean to the tournament and how much interest would the tournament continue to generate.
"We have to be remotivated, we have a moral obligation to play as best as we can against France," said Carlos Alberto Parreira, Bafana's coach. "We cannot have our heads down. We have to fight to the death."
Uruguay moves to four points in the group while South Africa stays at one after their opening game tie with Mexico.
Not surprisingly, the stands were packed with yellow and green jerseys and the atmosphere was dripping expectation.
The South Africans had to get a lift from their national anthem. It was a moving, roaring rendition that sent shivers up your spine.
But South Africa seemed to feel the pressure of the moment. While they started well, they couldn't seem to generate anything to get the one goal that would have ignited all the energy in Loftus Versfeld.
Instead they became tentative.
Uruguay is used to pressure games in unfriendly situations and didn't look troubled. They had the steadying influence of Diego Forlan up front along with Luis Suarez.
While the South Africans did a lot of pushing the ball around, Uruguay would penetrate whenever they could.
Uruguay's defence did a masterful job of keeping South Africa's best players, especially Steven Pienaar under control.
This was yet another in a growing list of games at this World Cup that didn't deliver the kind of football everyone hoped to see.
But Uruguay made the most of a lucky bounce to take control of the game in the 24th minute.
Forlan was 25 yards out when he surprised everyone by whipping a shot at the net. It was a hard shot that bounced off the head of Aaron Mokoena who was just in front of the 18-yard box. The ball took a dip, hit the bottom of the bar and flew into the net.
South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was left helpless.
South Africa look frustrated and a little overwhelmed. They lacked urgency early in the game and only regained it with 20 minutes left in the game.
They had half a chance on a header from Katiego Mphela and a couple of long-range efforts.
The clincher for Uruguay came in the the 76th minute when Khune took down Saurez in front of the net. Referee Massimo Busacca of Switzerland gives the keeper the red card.
There was contention that a Uruguayan was offside before the ball went to Saurez.
"He is the worst referee in this competition," Parreira said. "I hope we don't see his face again in any game anymore. He probably does not deserve to be here."
It took four minutes for backup Moneeb Josephs to get ready and when he comes on the pitch, he stands directly in front of Forlan, the penalty taker.
It didn't do much to Forlan's confidence who drilled the ball into the top of the net.
The fans began streaming out of the stadium.
It drained whatever zip was left in the stadium.
In the 94th minute, Alvaro Pereira converted a Saurez cross. It was just frosting on the cake.
Now it will take something special from South Africa to qualify. They will have to beat France, not an easy chore.
And a win by South Africa may be necessary to keep the tournament vibrant.