JOHANNESBURG, Jan 19 (Reuters) - South Africa coach Gordon Igesund accused his players of losing their nerve during a woeful display against tiny Cape Verde Islands in the goalless opening match of the African Nations Cup on Saturday.
Igesund, South Africa’s third coach since the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010, made no excuses for the hosts’ poor display at Soccer City.
“Not too many of my players came to the party in the first half, which I thought was a total waste of time - and we weren’t much better in the second,” he told a news conference after what was a poor spectacle watched live on TV by millions around the world.
”There were big gaps between the midfield and the strikers and we tried to get the ball to the strikers too quickly. Too many balls were played over the top at 100 miles per hour, which is something we don’t want to do.
”Some of the players seemed to freeze when the whistle blew and lost their nerve. Perhaps for some of them the occasion was a bit too big.
”We now have to go for it in our next two games against Angola and Morocco. Of course we wanted to win and get a goal and get all three points, and we are not doomed yet. But we need to improve.
“Credit to Cape Verde. They are a good, well-organised team and play like Europeans. They defended well, slowed the game right down in the second half and got the point they came looking for.”
In contrast Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes was delighted with the result which, he said, brought dignity to the country.
He also dismissed the idea that their first ever match in the tournament was a poor spectacle.
“That’s your opinion not mine,” he said after the game which produced only two scoring chances in a rain-lashed 90 minutes - both of them for his side.
”For me, it was mission accomplished. The team was excellent, we did the job we came to do and met our objectives and now we can concentrate on our next match against Morocco. I am happy, the players are happy and the technical staff are happy.
“We dignified our country today. It is a small country of 500,000 people, but we made them proud and have nothing to fear in our remaining games.” (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Toby Davis)