Bafana end '08 on a high

South Africa claimed a record-equalling fourth consecutive international victory Wednesday by edging Cameroon 3-2 in a Nelson Mandela Challenge thriller.  It was the fourth time the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup™ hosts have achieved the feat and brought a happy ending to a disappointing year for Bafana Bafana (The Boys).

Substitute striker Bernard Parker snatched the winner eight minutes from full-time after two goals from midfielder Teko Modise have got South Africa off to a great start only for Cameroon to draw level before half-time. Outstanding midfielder Daniel Kome reduced arrears and striker Somen Tchoyi levelled for the Indomitable Lions who lacked several key players, including three-time CAF African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto'o.

He was to be the star attraction at Olympia Park in this north-west town and other notable absentees from the annual fixture which honours former president Mandela were defender Rigobert Song and midfielder Geremi Njitap. The victory ended a run of three losses in the annual match by Bafana Bafana against the United States, Egypt and Senegal and was a timely boost ahead of the Confederations Cup draw in Johannesburg Saturday.

Star South Africa striker Benni McCarthy lined up just days after attending the Cape Town funeral of his father and played a key role in the second goal before being booked for a cynical foul on Jean Makoun and later replaced. The high-tempo match produced lots of goalmouth action for the near-capacity crowd on a wet evening and offered hope that Bafana are turning the corner after their shock elimination from the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Modise raised his international goal haul to seven after seven minutes as he pounced on a fluffed clearance to hammer a low shot past goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. A superb McCarthy back heel set Modise clear after 24 minutes and he used his weaker left foot to slam the ball across Kameni into the far corner of the net.

However, old South Africa defensive failings at set pieces came back to haunt them soon after when Kome lifted a free kick over a wall standing too far back and the ball floated above goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune into the net. Spain-bassed Kome was creating havoc with his dribbling and shooting and set up the 36th-minute equaliser with a free kick to the far post where unmarked Tchoyi nodded home.

As an action-packed second half drew to a close, Parker pounced when Kameni could not hold a stinging shot and he stroked the ball across the goal and into the net. Modise from leading South African club Orlando Pirates was foiled of a hat-trick in the final minute when his penalty was pushed away by captain Kameni.