Cape Town - Following his side’s 3-1 defeat to South Africa in the opening game of the 2014 African Nations Championship, Mozambique coach Joao Chissano concedes that the Mambas’ path to the knockout rounds have been dealt a serious blow and that his side were outplayed by the host nation.
Mozambique’s Diogo Alberto silenced the 26,000-strong Cape Town Stadium when he netted the opener just 11 minutes into the clash, after Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune failed to keep out the forward’s tame effort.
Subsequently, however, Bernard Parker netted twice.
A futher spectacular long-range goal from Hlompho Kekana saw Bafana come back from a goal down to record their fifth consecutive win over their southern African neighbours, keeping their 100 percent record intact.
“In the first place, I’d like to congratulate South Africa for their victory, and particularly for their three goals,” Chissano said, speaking through a translator after the game on Saturday.
“It’s always good to start a tournament with a victory. In the first half we didn’t really play the normal game that we play.
“Their rhythm is a lot faster than ours.”
Mozambique’s early strike, which was their first against South Africa in 19 years and their first on South African soil, seemed to send the visitors on their way, but a costly error inside the area saw Sibusiso Vilakazi brought down with a clumsy tackle and before long, Bafana were back on level terms - thanks to Parker’s crafty penalty kick.
“I don’t want to pronounce too much on the decisions of the referee, because his decisions stand, but from my perspective and from where I was standing, the decision was very doubtful,” Chissano said of the incident on 29 minutes.
“I also don’t want to justify our loss because of the penalty decision, but I would like to say that if the penalty decision was not made, nobody would be protesting against it.”
Chissano’s troops next face Nigeria on Wednesday at the same venue. The coach admitted the tournament would get even tougher as his team came face to face with the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) champions, who themselves suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Mali in the other group A opener, which followed Bafana’s victory.
“The teams that we’re playing against are very good teams and it’s going to be very difficult. The three games that we have to face are all going to be difficult.
“The first game was an extremely important one. The Nigerian team are the [Africa Cup of Nations] champions, they won the title last year and yes, they won the title with international players, but nevertheless, it is still the Nigerian team.”
Mozambique skipper Dario Khan, though, said the team still had plenty to compete for in their last two group fixtures and hoped to get back to winning ways against the tournament favourites in their next game.
“It’s always very difficult to start with a loss and I know that the next two games are going to be difficult, but we still have two games, so we’re going to give our best to win at least one of them,” Khan said.
Mozambique are rooted to the bottom of group A’s standings, with Bafana leading the group, while Mali are placed second and Nigeria third.