South Africa off to winning start

South Africa outplayed minnows Niger to claim a 2-0 victory in today's CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in the north-east city of Nelspruit.

First half goals from strikers Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker saw Bafana Bafana secure maximum points from a Group G opener likely to prove the easiest of six qualifying games.

A visit to bogey team Sierra Leone in October will reveal more about the team who three months ago became the first FIFA World Cup™ hosts to be eliminated after the first round.

Local coach Pitso Mosimane replaced veteran Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreria after that tournament and vowed to take the 1996 African champions to the 2012 finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

With seven-time title holders Egypt in the same mini-league and only the table toppers guaranteed a tournament place, it is a tall order for former national team striker Mosimane.

We controlled the game and I am happy with the result which takes us to the top of the table.
Pitso Mosimane, South Africa coach

After hosting and winning the Nations Cup, South Africa have steadily slipped from 1998 runners-up to three consecutive first round exits since 2004, and they failed to make it to Angola this year.

"We controlled the game and I am happy with the result which takes us to the top of the table. Anxiety and nervousness in front of goal cost us a wider winning margin," admitted Mosimane.

Everton midfielder and official man of the match Steven Pienaar echoed his coach's sentiments: "It was disappointing that we did not score more goals, but I am happy with my form."

South African supporters witnessed an encouraging start as their team set out to break down the cautious Central Africans.

Niger survived several scares before Mphela put Bafana Bafana ahead with a clinical finish on 12 minutes, racing on to a perfectly-weighted Pienaar pass and touching the ball twice before chipping it over the onrushing goalkeeper.

Poor control robbed Mphela of a second goal as half-time approached as Niger struggled to contain the lively home team.

And three minutes into first-half stoppage time South Africa doubled their advantage with Parker volleying an Anele Ngcongca cross into the corner of the net.

The second half followed a similar pattern to what had gone before with wave after wave of South Africa attack and Daouda from Cameroon club Cotonspoprt Garoua sparing the visitors a hiding courtesy of numerous fine saves.