The first match of the 2009 Confederations Cup was contested by hosts South Africa and 2007 AFC Asian Cup winners Iraq, who were making their debut in the competition, at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.
The crowd was in full voice, although the stadium was not completely sold out, as both teams started the match cautiously, frequently making avoidable mistakes in their passing.
Chances were almost non-existent in the first half an hour, although in the 12th minute South Africa’s Ntuthuko Sibaya fired a decent shot from outside the area that was parried away for a corner by goalkeeper Mohammed Kassid.
The home side were the slightly better team, and three minutes later they threatened again, as midfielder Tsholofelo Modise found full back Siboniso Gaxa inside the area, but the pass was just too long and could not be kept in play by the defender.
Overall it was a dull affair in the first half, with South Africa the only team showing some nice pieces of skill once in a while, as in the 26th minute, when Modise dribbled past a couple of Iraqi midfielders, but saw his route toward the penalty area halted by a defender.
A rare attempt at goal came in the 37th minute, when South African striker Bernard Parker fired a shot from outside the area that went just wide.
That was the last interesting moment of a disappointing first half. During half time, neither team opted to make any changes to their line-ups.
Possibly the biggest chance of the match up to that point came in the 48th minute, when Thembinkosi Fanteni made some nice dribbles inside Iraq’s penalty area, and played it to Parker, whose shot from a difficult position was hard but straight at Kassid.
The next opportunity came twenty minutes later, as Modise tried to take the ball on the bounce and shoot from just outside the area, but his volley went a few meters over the bar.
In the 72nd minute, a dangerous corner almost led to an opening goal for South Africa, but Fanteni headed the ball just over the bar on Modise’s corner.
The biggest chance of the match came in the 78th minute, when South Africa’s Katlego Mashego, who had just come in moments earlier, found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Kassid, who managed to anticipate him and parry the ball away.
Suddenly the match came alive in the final stages, and a minute later Parker had another chance for the hosts, as a nice counterattack move saw him in space in the penalty area on a cross by Siboniso Gaxa, but his eventual shot was straight at Kassid.
An incredible chance went to waste for the Bafana in the 84th minute, when on a cross by Gaxa on the right, midfielder Kagisho Dikcagoi popped up to head the ball in from close range, but Parker found himself on the goal line and inadvertently prevented his team mate from scoring.
That was the last real opportunity of a match South Africa would have deserved to win, but they failed to convert the few decent chances they created in the latter part of the second half, against a highly defensive Iraq team.
The second Group A match will take place tonight at 20:30 CET between favourites Spain and New Zealand.
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