Johannesburg - Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula on Wednesday said criticism directed at Bafana Bafana striker Tokelo Rantie, for his missed penalty against Algeria earlier in the week, was unwarranted.
"People must not judge Tokelo and crucify him for a penalty," Mbalula said in Johannesburg.
"Football is about bravery and courage, and he was courageous enough to go and take the penalty. It can happen. I'm sure he didn't go there aiming to miss."
Bafana lost their opening match against Algeria 3-1 in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament at the Estadio de Mongomo, in Equatorial Guinea, on Monday.
Thuso Phala’s neat finish after 51 minutes put South Africa ahead and Rantie could have made it 2-0 with 35 minutes left to play, but he hit the crossbar. An own goal by Thulani Hlatshwayo allowed the tournament favourites back into the game.
Mbalula said it was not just Rantie, but some of the best players in the world had missed penalties.
"Roberto Baggio, Asamoah Gyan, Ronaldo and many more have missed penalties, so it can happen to anybody."
Apart from the missed spot kick, Mbalula said Rantie had a brilliant game.
"People were a bit unfair by the criticism. I cannot be critical of Rantie. Let's judge players when they under-perform not when they miss penalties."
With the loss having weakened Bafana's chances of progressing to the quarterfinals, SA Football Association (SAFA) chief executive Dennis Mumble said the team had not been given a mandate for AFCON.
"We agreed not to set a target for 2015," Mumble said.
"Our target was for the 2017 AFCON. From the beginning we wanted to give Shakes time to build a competitive squad."
The SAFA boss said there were turning points during the match that played into the hands of the Algerians.
"From our match report, we saw that we lost the ball too many times in our own half after the injury to defender Rivaldo Coetzee.
"We didn't have a sweeper and that left us vulnerable. We lost our balance at the back and that cost us which led to the mistakes we made to concede."
Bafana would look to bounce back when they take on Senegal on Friday and Ghana on Tuesday in their remaining group C encounters.