Khune: We know what to expect
Gifted young South African No1 Itumeleng Khune is backing Bafana Bafana to bounce back from recent disappointments when they renew hostilies with Spain in the third place play-offs at Royal Bafokeng on Sunday afternoon.
Despite some inventive work in midfield, the South Africans have been shot-shy in front of goal, but the Kaizer Chiefs keeper said they are now determined to end their spell of bad luck in a match that could give South Africa they first ever medal at a FIFA competition.
Khune has been studying the Spaniards closely. "We saw how they play when we played then," he told FIFA.com. "We studied them and we know their weaknesses. We know where they will attack us, and we know how to counter them. I think people have noticed that our team is improving - we cannot be taken lightly, we cannot be underestimated. But we need to score goals, we need to take our chances. Sometimes we play so well, but the problem is that we do not punish our opponents. At some stage, I feel we have been unlucky; with little bit of extra luck, I'm sure we could have done much better."
While the impressive Spanish side represent a colossal obstacle for the ambitious South Africans, Bafana Bafana believe that, with some sharpening of their attacking play, victory could yet be theirs. In their last few games, Joel Santana's side have been culpable of failing to provide an end product to their well-initiated moves, failing to score in three of their four FIFA Confederations Cup fixtures so far.
The tournament has brought mixed emotions for Santana, but the Brazilian is optimistic his side can capitalise on the wounded Spanish pride after the European champions' surprise loss to USA. "We are improving as a team," he said. "Every match we play, the team is getting better and that is good news because our main goal is to prepare for the World Cup. All the matches are tough for us, we respect our opponents, but we have to concentrate on our own game, our own plan.
Steven Pienaar was among the players left visibly disappointed on Thursday night, particularly after a huge personal effort that earned him the Budweiser Man of the Match award. The Everton midfielder still finds the narrow loss to Brazil unpalatable, but he has urged his team-mates to respond to the sting of defeat. "To lose to Brazil like that hurt me a lot, but that is football, these things happen in this game. Now we need to move on, we need to think about the next game against Spain and we need to figure out how to deal with them."
One of the heroes against Brazil was forward Siphiwe Tshabalala, who started his first game in the tournament against A Seleção. Reflecting on the game, Tshabalala admitted that, while defeat remains hard to stomach, he is proud of the team's gutsy performance. "It was hard for us to accept losing after fighting so hard, but that's football," he said. "We played well, we lost with dignity, we gave it our all. It just wasn't our day."