South Africa drew their last 2013 Afcon preparation match, against Algeria at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday nightSouth Africa coach Gordon Igesund started the game with an attacking line-up, in what was dubbed his 'dream team'. The most successful coach in South African PSL history, has already said before that he wants Bafana to play attacking football. Perhaps this positive attitude will solve Bafana's goalscoring problem.
Coaches are usually asked if they know their best eleven, and with one week before Bafana's opener against Cape Verde it would seem this is it. Igesund has experimented in the past, and the truth is that he hasn't had enough time. You can't field your ideal team just one week before a key opener. You would need at least a few games for them to gel better.
In their last game against the Norwegians it was their defensive weakness that also cost the game, so Bafana still need to be mindful as this approach will place the defence at risk. On the other hand fortune favours the brave, particularly when you have home ground advantage and the nation behind you, then you have the licence to attack.
The Algerians selected a young team. Their Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodžic saw the Algerians win six of their last eight international matches. Algeria wanted a good test before opening their group of death against Togo, Tunisia and Ivory Coast in the Afcon.
Katlego Mphela started upfront with Bernard Parker, while Thulani Serero operated in a free, attacking midfield, creative role. This adventurous approach was going to be ideally tested, since the Algerians are difficult to break down, playing a European style of defensive organisation. It would also be the perfect preparation for Bafana's group stage game against Morocco in the Afcon.
Both teams started patiently and Bafana passed the ball along the ground much more than they did against the Norwegians. Though, most of the possession were in harmless positions in the early stages, as both teams failed to take a shot at goal.
In the 23rd minute the South African defense was left open down the left, but the Algerian Hameur Bouazza took his shot too early and skied it into the stands. For SA there was a good free kick from Parker in the 31st minute, crossing to Sangweni but the Algerian keeper Rais M'Bolhi judged it well, and reached for it.
In the 34th minute Khune was slow to cut off a hopeful long ball, the pace of Belkalim Essaid beating him to it and the Algerian nearly scored cheakily. Though, Khune should at least be credited for making up for it, by parrying the shot for a corner.
Five minutes later the game changed with a series of Bafana opportunites sweeping forward. First, Mphela was clean through, but perhaps decided to slide it through the keepers legs. M'Bolhi read it well to save with his legs and it's his performance that stood out tonight. In hindsight from this position Mphela would have had more luck if he shot to the right of the keeper. These are the opportunities Bafana will look back to with regret.
In the 42nd minute Parker took an excellent shot from outside the box, curling it very effectively to the right of the keeper. It wasn't a clear opportunity with bodies ahead of him, but it was well executed. Even though Bafana were much sharper than Algeria, they would be frustrated, wondering what they have to do to score. During a lean spell, it takes any type of goal to get your confidence back.
Siboniso Gaxa came on for Ngcongca at the start of the second half. It might have been to cancel out Algeria's threat down their left side. Three minutes into the second half, Mostefa was played through unmarked for Algeria's best opportunity of the game, only to hit the side-netting when aiming for the near post.
In the 52nd minute Siphiwe Tshabalala replaced Serero, the latter probably not ready for a full 90 minutes for Bafana yet. The same could be said for Dean Furman a minute later, who was substituted for Reneilwe Letsholonyane. Then Tokelo Rantie replaced Mphela as Igesund played his hand to shake things up.
Tshabalala took a speculative shot with a wild effort well over the bar. Then in the 64th minute Tshabalala's next attempt was much better, chesting the ball from outside the box, before unleashing a great volley with his left foot, swerving narrowly over the bar. The attacking midfielder certainly did provide a cutting edge.
Igesund thought he had a penalty in the 75th minute when Rantie was played through. Even if he was impeded, the linesman flagged for off-side. Then a minute later Rantie was again the dangerman, perhaps the best individual moment as he tried to twist and turn his way through two defenders but lost possession.
South Africa continued to push forward, with Igesund this time feeling he should have had a penalty through a hand ball by the Algerians, but we need a close-up replay to see what really happened in there. The coach was clearly frustrated after his forces still failed to find a breakthrough.
Tshabalala swung in an excellent corner in the 87th minute, Parker leaping well to meet it for a header but directed it off target. The critics might look too closely at Bafana's errors in front of goal again, after failing to score, but one has to remember that the players will be saving their best for the first competitive match against Cape Verde next week Saturday.