Johannesburg — The burden of expectation exacted a potentially heavy price from the African Nations Cup finals hosts as South Africa delivered a tepid performance to start the tournament on Saturday.
Nervous, anxiousness and an impatience on the ball cost the home team a much-hoped-for win that would have allowed them to relax and set their sights on achieving their goal of at least reaching the semi-final.
Instead they now find themselves in a precarious position after being held to a goalless draw by the Cape Verde Islands at a rain-drenched Soccer City.
Fortunately for South Africa, there was no winner nor any goals in the second Group A match later on Saturday between Angola and Morocco.
It means matters are all square but South Africa lost the advantage against arguably the weakest team in the group and must now get results against both Angola and Morocco.
Much of the success of the Nations Cup as tournament hinges on the performance of the home team. A successful run by Bafana Bafana will lift the public’s appetite for the event and increase ticket sales, but now the pressure is now ratcheted up on both team and organisers.
South Africa started incredibly brightly inside the first minute with the gulf in technical ability between the two teams quickly evidenced by the way winger Thuso Phala left fullback Nivaldo sprawled after selling him a dummy.
But that probably proved the highlight of the day for the hosts who were not able to find their range, who could not cross properly nor were able to put the Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha under any significant pressure.
Resultantly the only two chances the home side had were from free kicks - the first from Siphiwe Tshabalala was saved and the second from Katlego Mphela went over the top.
The result proved a triumph for the Cape Verdians, continuing their fairytale run in continental football after qualifying for the finals for the first time by beating Cameroon in the quarter-finals.
They did not look particularly strong but did the basics correctly and with a little fortune might well have scored. Certainly they had the clearer chances in the game – Platini will surely be rueing the 15th minute miss from in front of goals that might have turned it into a famous game.
For coach Lucio Antunes it was the perfect start and he says his side will continue to believe that they might yet emerge as one of the sensational stories in the tournament’s history.