Mashaba lauds his players for draw

THE South African Under 23 Men’s National Team coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, says last night’s results against Cote d’Ivoire is a bitter sweet pill to swallow.

The two countries played to a 1-1 draw in a game characterised by tactical superiority at the Marrakech Stadium in Morrocco. Mashaba acknowledged the Ivorians’ technique and ball possession prowess as a strength they posses.

He also lamented South Africa’s missed goal scoring opportunities after clinical counter attacks in their Group B opener of the CAF Under 23 Championship currently underway in Morocco. The South African mentor says his team had to play organised formations to counter the West Africans’ passing game and off the ball movements.

“It was a game of contrasting tactics and was unfortunately decided by a red card to our player Thami Sangweni while we were leading one nil early in the second half. Playing with ten men for such a long time at this level of the game is difficult, and despite that we managed to absorb the pressure and launched counter attacks that could have won us the match. I think we frustrated our opponents by keeping shape at all times and by also avoiding the short passing game they expected us to play. The red card made things extremely difficult for us and we should say it was a well-earned point at the end. We played against a very good Cote d’Ivoire team in a high intensity game,” explained Mashaba.

South Africa’s next match against Gabon is on Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 19h30 South African time.

Mashaba adds that first matches in a tournament are always difficult, but he is expecting a much-improved performance from his charges.

“The first match is out of the way now, and the players’ anxieties must be a thing of the past. The focus is now on our next match against Gabon. It is a crucial clash that will determine our destiny in the Championship, and as a result, the preparation for it must equal its significance,” concluded Mashaba.

Group B of CAF Under 23 Championship is led by Egypt with three points following their one nil win over Gabon in the earlier match.

Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa are in position two and three respectively with a point each, while Gabon is bottom of the table with no

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