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Jun 17, 2009

All Whites outclassed by Bafana Bafana

South Africa 2-0 New Zealand

Sorry New Zealand. This was just downright poor. I know it must have been hard to concentrate at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium amid the cacophony of vuvuzelas, but frankly I anticipated a better performance.

On Sunday against Spain, even though the defending was abject in the 5-0 defeat, one could take into the account the fact that expectations were low. In Rustenburg, hopes were sky high that the All Whites could treat the game as a brand new start of sorts. Sadly, it was more of the humdrum same and Ricki Herbert's men now have no chance of progressing to the last four at the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Does anyone get pass marks? Goalkeeper Glen Moss definitely deserves credit for a couple of brilliant saves and all-around command of his area. Bernard Parker's two goals can't be pinned on the man who'll shortly be playing for Melbourne Victory. I'll give Ivan Vicelich a mention too, since he came out of international retirement to help the New Zealand cause when Ryan Nelsen had to withdraw through injury before the tournament started.

Otherwise, the complete lack of ingenuity was startling. South Africa were vastly superior in every way, except when it came to defending set-pieces. There, as many had predicted, New Zealand had the distinct aerial advantage, and by pushing Andrew Boyens and Vicelich up beside Chris Killen, made Bafana Bafana look a bit jittery.

Where do the All Whites go from here? Saturday's meeting with Iraq is now devoid of pressure and the atmosphere will be decidedly low key at Ellis Park with a sparse crowd expected. After all, South Africa will be playing simultaneously in Bloemfontein against Spain, and there's also the small matter of the Springboks v Lions rugby test match!

One must hope Herbert uses the Iraq game to look properly at some of the fringe members. At 17, Chris Wood still has a lot to learn about the game of football, but the raw potential is there and he might be just the player to ask genuine questions of the Iraqi defence. Similarly, Chris James deserves a run in more than just a cameo role off the bench.

The upshot of Wednesday's events in Asian World Cup qualifying is that Saudi Arabia will play Bahrain for the right to meet New Zealand in the decisive World Cup play-off. In ability and style, Iraq are not so very far away from either country. Now is surely the time to be examining options for the national team's most important international matches for quite some time.

The Rustenburg display is one best forgotten, and quickly.

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