New kit, old failings as South Africa held by Namibia

Johannesburg (AFP) –


South Africa sported a new French-designed kit, but the old failure to convert possession into goals persisted as they were held 1-1 by lower ranked Namibia in Rustenburg Thursday.

The hosts' Luther Singh gave Bafana Bafana a 19th-minute lead that Absalom Iimbondi cancelled 10 minutes into the second half.

After a coronavirus-induced layoff since late 2019, international football returned to Africa last month when Sudan beat Chad twice in Cup of Nations warm-ups.

This week and next, many other African national teams will play international friendly matches to prepare for the resumption in November of 2021 Cup of Nations qualifying.

On Friday there are several high-profile clashes with Morocco hosting Senegal in Rabat and African champions Algeria facing Nigeria in the Austrian town of Sankt Veit an der Glan.

In Rustenburg, South Africa were lacklustre in their first outing since last November and face potentially tougher opponents this Sunday in Zambia at the same venue.

They had 62 percent possession and a 9-1 corner count in their favour which indicates the amount of pressure they exerted behind closed doors at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.

But it took Namibian sloppiness to give South Africa the lead as the ball was softly surrendered and a couple of slick passes led unmarked Singh to fire past Virgil Vries.

Namibia, who are 46 places below South Africa in the world rankings, levelled when Iimbondi struck the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Ronwen Williams from close range.

- Cramping players -

South Africa coach Molefi Ntseki said cramping players forced him to make many substitutions and this affected the rhythm of the team.

"A heavy pitch did not help and remember that the local players, who formed the majority of the starting line-up, have just commenced pre-season training," he said.

"Although there is no substitute for experience, I fielded a number of young South Africans to see how they would cope with international football."

Namibia coach Bobby Samaria said he was unconcerned with the amount of possession South Africa had because "much of it was in areas where they could not hurt us".

"I was unhappy at half-time and told my boys to go back to the pitch and play like men. Play hard," he said.

"Given that our last match was 10 months ago, I have to be satisfied. We may be ranked well below South Africa, but there is plenty of football talent in Namibia."

South Africa now have two days to prepare for Zambia, who beat Malawi in Lusaka on Wednesday and play Kenya in on Nairobi Friday.

Meanwhile, Guinea-Bissau beat Mozambique 1-0 in Obidos, a town 85 kilometres (53 miles) north of Lisbon, through a second half goal from Jorge 'Bura' Cande after a goalmouth scramble.