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Luckless South Africa face Nations Cup embarrassment

SoccerNews in World Cup 6 Sep 2008

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South Africa fell 1-0 to Nigeria Saturday and lost virtually all hope of playing in the African Nations Cup five months before hosting the 2010 World Cup.

After surviving continuous pressure for 70 minutes, severely depleted Nigeria snatched the winner through Ikechukwu Uche and left Bafana Bafana (The Boys) praying for an unlikely set of results.

The first would be an Equatorial Guinea victory in Sierra Leone later Saturday followed by a South African victory in Malabo next month and Nigeria taking at least one point off the Leone Stars in Abuja.

A more likely scenario is that South Africa will finish bottom of the pool, a massive embarrassment for a country preparing to tackle the giants of world football in less than two years.

South Africa qualify automatically for the 2010 World Cup as hosts and will be joined by five other African nations at the quadrennial 32-team showcase of international football.

Victory confirmed the dominance of Bafana Bafana by the Super Eagles, who have not lost a competitive match to South Africa since an apartheid-induced ban was lifted 16 years ago.

“This was the best performance by South Africa since I took charge and we could have scored six or seven goals,” said Brazilian coach Joel Santana after his third loss in five matches after taking charge four months ago.

Santana was a controversial choice having been chosen by predecessor and compatriot Carlos Alberto Parreira, who returned home to support his ill wife in Rio de Janeiro.

Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu said: “South Africa did create a lot of chances but we came to win and so I’m delighted. Winning becomes a habit and that is what I want to instil among my players.”

It was the fifth consecutive win for Nigeria in the 2010 World Cup-African Nations Cup qualifying competition and they have not conceded a goal in 450 minutes of action.

Spain-based Uche, scorer of the opening goal when Nigeria defeated South Africa 2-0 in Abuja last June, broke the deadlock with a low shot past Itumeleng Khune into the corner of the net.

South Africa came closest to levelling in the coastal city four minutes later when goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba dashed off his line to parry a close-range shot from Siyabonga Nkosi.

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