Santana: Promising future ahead
South Africa coach Joel Santana preferred to focus on the positives of his side's FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 campaign despite their 3-2 defeat to Spain in the match for third place. Bafana Bafana defied expectations in reaching the semi-finals and gave European champions Spain a close match in Rustenburg before a pulsating game was finally settled by Xabi Alonso's free-kick in the latter stages of extra time.
Next summer South Africa will host the FIFA World Cup™ and Santana believes their achievements at this tournament will stand them in good stead for what is to come in 12 months' time. He said: "We have had a good Confederations Cup, so it's a positive experience for us and our players.
"Experience is acquired with time. I believe we played very well. I'm very satisfied with our team, a team that was not well thought of," said Santana. "It gives us a very promising future."
Spain, whose 35-match unbeaten run came to a shock end against the USA in the semi-finals, were lethargic for much of the encounter and appeared to be heading for another defeat when Katlego Mphela put Bafana Bafana ahead after 73 minutes. But two goals in the final three minutes from substitute Daniel Guiza turned the match around, only for Mphela to send the game into extra time with a blistering free-kick.
Spain sealed it when Liverpool midfielder Alonso curled a 107th-minute free-kick from the left into the area which eluded everyone and ended up in the bottom right-hand corner. Santana added: "It was a fantastic game; it was a match that either team could have won.
"There is a little bit of inexperience from our side when it comes to keeping possession a little bit longer, but with time they will learn this," he said.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was also satisfied with his team's efforts, both in the match for third place and overall. He said: "I think we have felt at ease at this Confederations Cup.
"We did lose against the United States, but even that was a positive experience for us. Today was difficult for us, we were playing against a side that attacked us a lot," said del Bosque. "
"They played some excellent football. In the first half, we could have won the match, but we missed some chances. But I think it was a good game of football, where both sides played very well."
South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune pulled off a string of fine saves and was distraught at having come out on the losing side. He said: "We are devastated. It was one of those matches where we had a lot of chances to win, but we let them come back.
"We worked very hard in a very difficult game," said Khune. "We always felt we had a chance and we fought until the end. The tournament has been a good experience for all the boys and we have learned a lot."