Don’t panic. That was the the message Everton playmaker Steven Pienaar had for his teammates after South Africa’s disappointing start to the Confederations Cup.
The midfielder who played a central role in his Premier League side’s run to the FA Cup final, was sorely missed in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Iraq, ill health keeping him on the bench until the last five minutes.
The result has left the Confed Cup hosts in a hole of their own making – they need to take all three points in their next Group A game against New Zealand on Wednesday to keep them in the race for the semi-finals.
The good news for coach Joel Santana and Bafana Bafana’s fans is that Pienaar has recovered from his ailment and is expected to start in Rustenburg where his creative expertise will be warmly welcomed.
Assessing the hosts’ predicament in this warm up to next year’s World Cup the 27-year-old told fifa.com: “We are definitely disappointed because we expected a lot from this game (against Iraq).
“If you can get three points in the opening game, it normally takes a lot of pressure off a team.
“Now we have our backs against the wall. But we just have to stay focused and there’s still two games, so we’ll have to give everything then.”
He conceded South Africa had been poor in the first half against the well organised 2007 Asian Cup champions.
“It was difficult for the guys to break them down,” he said.
“We knew the first game was going to be difficult, everyone was expecting a win, so we’re just disappointed now. But I’m glad it’s over now and we can look forward to the next game, hopefully a bit more relaxed.”
Turning to his own level of readiness for Wednesday’s encounter with the All Whites Pienaar reported: “I was ill the whole week, that’s why I started on the bench. I feel much better now and things should be okay.”
Man of the match was Teko Modise who concurred with his midfield colleague.
“The next match will be very difficult because the pressure is getting higher and higher,” the hugely popular Orlando Pirates star stated.
“We need to secure the next six points available,” – no mean feat given waiting for them in Bloemfontain on Saturday are tournament favourites and European champions Spain.
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