Referee Jorge LARRIONDA (URU)
Deadlock as Iraq hold hosts
The opening match of the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 ended in stalemate, with South Africa left frustrated by a stubborn Iraq side. Joel Santana's side enjoyed the better of a disappointing match but a lack of composure proved costly and resulted in a 0-0 draw that leaves the race to qualify from Group A wide open.
After a rousing rendition of the hosts' national anthem, and speeches from FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, the action began at a frantic pace as Bafana Bafana surged forward.
However, in their desire to seize an early advantage, Joel Santana's side were guilty of occasional impetuousness, first in the shape of an ill-judged lunge from Thembinkosi Fanteni that earned a second-minute yellow card, then when Bernard Parker snatched at a 20-yard shot and sent the ball trundling into Mohammed Kassid's arms.
With Steven Pienaar sidelined, all eyes were on Teko Modise and, with 18 minutes played, he showed delightful footwork to tee up Macbeth Sibaya for a shot that was heading for the top left-hand corner before Kassid got across to make a superb save.
Unfortunately for South Africa, their star player drifted out of an increasingly scrappy first half, and it was only after the break that the hosts re-established their territorial advantage. Modise himself might have given them the lead but, presented with a sight of goal 20 yards out, he leaned back and blazed his shot high and wide.
It was a poor effort but with 17 minutes remaining, Modise very nearly made amends with an inch-perfect corner that Fanteni headed over when he might have been expected to hit the target. With Iraq seemingly happy to settle for a draw, South Africa threw men forward in search of a winner and only a brave stop by Kassid at the feet of Katlego Mashego prevented the substitute becoming a hero.
At this stage, there was already a feeling that this was not to be South Africa's night, and this suspicion was all but confirmed by an incredible incident six minutes from time. A goal looked to be inevitable when Kagisho Dikgacoi capitalised on Kassid flapping at a routine cross, but just as his header was set to cross the line, the ball struck the calf of Parker and bounced agonisingly to safety.