South Africa coach Joel Santana accused Iraq of deploying negative tactics which paralysed the game, after watching the Asian champions grab a point in the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 opener. After a nervy, forgettable first period, hosts South Africa had the run of Ellis Park only to get bogged down as Iraq played fortress football.

Striker Bernard Parker spurned arguably the best of a host of chances when he inadvertently blocked team-mate Kagisho Dikgacoi's header on the goal-line in the dying minutes. Santana expressed his surprise at what he considered Iraq coach Bora Milutinovic's spoiling tactics.

"We had 17 shots on goal, compared to three from Iraq," the Brazilian remarked. "After a nervy start we controlled all aspects of the game and could have scored three or four goals. I was surprised at the way they held back in defence.

"Do you know how many minutes we played football in the first half? 32! It wasn't us stopping the match all the time," he said. "They tried to paralyse the game, but we can't complain.

"This wasn't the result we wanted, but I don't think we played badly," Santana said. "We were better in all aspects, no doubt about that." He added: "On the one hand I'm satisfied with the game, but not satisfied with the result. But in football you don't always get what you want."

I was surprised at the way they held back in defence.
South Africa coach Joel Santana

Santana assured his side's expectant fans, 48,837 of whom turned up at the venue, that his team would improve. Milutinovic defended Iraq's tactics, the veteran Serb saying: "Our goal is to try to win every game. Some may say this was a boring game, some will be happy with it.

"For us this is a positive result, it gives us a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals and for that it was one of the most unforgettable days in my life," he said.

Iraqi midfielder Nashat Akram conceded Iraq had not been at their best. "Of course we can play better, but we're happy with one point. We were playing the host team who were very well supported.

"It's the opening game and usually teams are a bit cagey and don't take risks," he said. "We tired a bit towards the end, but managed to hold on thanks to some good goalkeeping."

A point apiece leaves both teams in contention for the semi-finals as Group A runners-up to favourites Spain, the Euro 2008 champions, who are widely expected to top a group which also includes New Zealand.