Joel Santana Blames South Africa Draw On Nerves & Opponents Iraq

Bafana coach Joel Santana says his side were better in all aspects of the Confederations Cup opener against Iraq, but blamed nerves and the negative tactics of the Asian champions for the goalless draw at Ellis Park.
Santana went into the match with three defensive midfielders, confirming he did not want to risk the fitness of star man Steven Pienaar, who had missed five days of training in the week.

Although disappointed with the result, he said the team is already thinking about New Zealand in Rustenburg on Wednesday, rather than dwelling on Sunday’s match.

“We had a lot of nerves in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but after that the players settled down and we controlled the game,” Santana said. “We expected the Iraqis to be more attacking than they were, but they just tried to capitalise on our mistakes and look for free kicks. That made things difficult for us.

“I’m not satisfied with the result and was expecting a win, but this is football. You have days like these. We need four or five points to get through to the semi-finals and now we have one. It is a start.”

Iraq coach Bora Milutinovic was delighted with his side’s effort, denying they had employed negative tactics in order to stymie Bafana.

“The point is very important and we will celebrate this result,” the Serbian said. “We tried everything to win the game, but it was not easy. You say we were negative, but that depends on how you view the game. It is a matter of opinion."

Milutinovic also said he had no problems with the much-maligned Ellis Park pitch, claiming the surface looked “normal”.