Bafana Bafana looked inspired at a packed Ellis Park Stadium, with their determination and creative midfield play, causing the defending champions plenty of trouble. However, home hearts were broken two minutes before the end when substitute Daniel Alves rifled in an 18-yard free-kick to silence the near 50,000 crowd and book the South Americans a date with USA in Sunday's final.
Despite the turn of events at the end the coach was pleased, saying his players could hold their heads up high. "My players looked very balanced for most of the game," Santana said. "They looked very calm and relaxed without much nervousness. It seemed like we would hold on, but Brazil used their experience in the set-piece at the end and won the game.
"The important thing is that we are very proud to have played in the way we did against a national team that is recognised as one of the best in the world. We were able to hold our own, which was quite noteworthy. With the World Cup in mind, we should remember that we still have another year to prepare ourselves."
Santana, himself Brazilian, said he enjoyed the "emotional night" of playing against his fellow countrymen, but preferred to focus on his newly-adopted country, who he believes has the potential to make even further headway when the FIFA World Cup™ arrives for the first time in Africa in 12 months time.
He continued: "I think we played very well in reality. Perhaps we even surprised Brazil in the manner we played and we marked their players sector-by-sector. Every player played his role and we even managed some good counter-attacks. We could have showed more composure in front of goal. I'm sure this team will improve even more in this time. But for now we can take a lot of hope and heart from this performance."
Captain Aaron Mokoena and midfielder Steven Pienaar echoed those sentiments. "Most of these boys are young and went out there playing under severe pressure," Mokoena said. "There were lots of people that didn't believe in us, but they went out there, carried themselves well and did the country proud. This was a rehearsal and we did fantastically well. It's all about taking the positives from this tournament and moving on to the World Cup."
Pienaar, who was named Budweiser Man of the Match for his performance, added: "I'm pretty happy with the way the team went, it really made me proud. It was obviously disappointing to lose in the last two minutes, but we definitely played with pride and passion. It was also a sign or message to the world that we can play if we believe. I think we showed that tonight."
Brazil coach Dunga also praised the home side, but seemed as though he never doubted that his side would win. "South Africa defended very well," he said. "They held their own and played very well. They tried to make things difficult for Brazil, launched counter-attacks and they exploited some open spaces nicely.
"But football must be decided in 90 minutes, so we had to use all the weapons at our disposal to win the match. We knew it was going to be a difficult match. Especially towards the end of a tournament of this nature, the games are even more tough. But tonight we were able to withstand that."