South Africa continued their build-up to a FIFA World Cup™ they will host with a promising, yet ultimately disappointing, 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in Johannesburg. Siyabonga Sangweni gave Bafana Bafana the lead just before the midway point of a first half they dominated, but Valeri Bojinov's 31st-minute strike pegged the home side back.
Changes after the break by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira meant the shape of the team was altered, and they never looked the same in the second period. "I am happy with the performance because Bulgaria provided the sort of high-level opposition we will face during the World Cup," said the South Africa coach. "We were on top in the first half while finding it difficult to penetrate at times and Bulgaria scored from the only chance they created. The game suffered in the second half because both sides made a lot of changes.
I am happy with the performance because Bulgaria provided the sort of high-level opposition we will face during the World Cup.
There was plenty of enterprising passing from the South Africans early on at the Orlando Stadium, a clear indication that their recent training camps had helped create a better understanding between the players. They had some good chances too in the opening 15 minutes, with Katlego Mphela forcing Nikolay Mihaylov into a low save from a 20-yard free-kick and then going close with a glancing header.
Teko Modise, winning his 50th cap for South Africa and handed the honour of leading the team on the night, then forced the Bulgarian goalkeeper into punching his 25-yard drive wide.
The pressure eventually told in the 20th minute, when the deadlock was broken. Siphiwe Tshabalala created the opening with his outswinging corner to the back post, where it was headed in by the unmarked Sangweni.
After eventually waking up from their slow start, Ivelin Popov and Bojinov tested Itumeleng Khune for the first time, before the equaliser arrived. More sloppy defence meant that the former Manchester City striker found himself onside in the box, after a mis-hit cross by Georgi Peev on the right, and he easily sent the ball beyond the South Africa goalkeeper.
Five minutes before the break, Reneilwe Letsholonyane cut open the visiting defence with a driving left-footed shot that was again only parried. The sides duly went in all square.
Parreira made several changes at the interval, with the likes of Aaron Mokoena, Tsepo Masilela and Kagisho Dikgacoi introduced, but it seemed to affect the home side going forward. It was Bulgaria that almost went ahead before the hour mark when Dimitar Rangelov was picked out on the right, but his shot was excellently kept out by Khune.
The game disappointingly faded for the hosts thereafter - the visitors ending much stronger and looking the more likely to score - with Parreira's men having another chance to build when they come up against Colombia on Thursday.