Durban - Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund insisted his South Africa team was neither “bulldozed nor bullied” by Nigeria in their Nelson Mandela Challenge loss at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Wednesday.
FORUM: Have any thoughts? If so, join the
debate on Sport24's all-new Forum!
Substitute Uche Nwafor bagged a brace to help the African champions coast to a comfortable 2-0 scoreline against a fairly toothless South Africa.
“I don’t think they bulldozed us off the ball or bullied us in any way,” the national coach said afterwards.
“We tried to move the ball quickly, we played some nice stuff in passages.
“At the end of the day, they got the goals that counted. But it’s not because we were bullied, I think we gave as much as we got.
“The guys out there were passionate, they were fully committed and gave everything they had. We were beaten because we never took the opportunities we had in the first half.”
It was a fourth straight time South Africa failed to win the annual showpiece - played in honour of the former president.
But Igesund was adamant they were not overwhelmed by their opponents, though he admitted that they needed to play with more confidence.
“We played against a very good team on Wednesday night and I think it’s important for us to play in such games,” he explained.
“The players learnt a lot on Wednesday night.
"I think they start needing to believe in themselves, I’ve told them that.
“We can’t be intimidated or overawed in any way.
“I don’t think the scoreline was a true reflection of what happened. I mean we had our opportunities, we had some good chances, we just didn’t take them.
“It wasn’t like they were pounding us and (goalkeeper Itumeleng) Khune was having to make a save every two minutes. He was fairly quiet."
The result also meant the hosts extended their woeful record against the Super Eagles to a sixth loss in eight meetings - one of those games was a draw with South Africa winning the other back in 2004.
Bafana, ranked 67 in the world, has a poor record when it comes to playing some of the powerhouses of world football, even though the sport has strong financial backing and is among the richest on the African continent.
“We want to mix it up with Spain, we want to mix it up with Germany, we want to mix it up with Argentina,” Igesund responded when asked about playing against the top-ranked teams.
“I don’t think we’re inferior to these teams.
“Right now we may not be there, but we want to over a period of time. Over the years we haven’t got things right in terms of our development, but there’s a plan in place going forward.
“But you can’t wave a magic wand and expect it to happen overnight. It might take South Africa five or 10 years to be where those teams are.
“But I believe we have a plan and we need to stick to it, whoever the coach is.”