Carlos Alberto Parreira hailed his South Africa side despite seeing them held 1-1 by Bulgaria on Monday in a 2010 FIFA World Cup™ warm-up.
The hosts, who play Mexico in the 11 June tournament opener, looked more than a match for a team ranked 51 places above them and the Brazilian admitted he was delighted with the approach of his team. "There was a lot of improvement and you can see the team are making progress. We were not intimidated by them and we played very well in the first half," said the coach of the 1994 Brazil FIFA World Cup-winning team.
"The second half was difficult because we made so many changes, but I had to give players a chance. I'm happy because this is the level we will face in the World Cup in terms of technique and I thought we dealt with them well. Now we need to work on the penetration more and getting the full-backs to attack, but we are starting to impose our style on other teams."
We need to work on the penetration more and getting the full-backs to attack, but we are starting to impose our style on other teams.
Bulgaria have not qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and coach Stanimir Stoilov thought a draw was a fair result. "It was an interesting game and both teams played well tactically without thinking much about trying to win. It was a fair result and I think South Africa are a good team. We had some problems communicating with the players, but we understand the noise (vuvuzela plastic trumpets) is a South African tradition so we respect that."
Stand-in captain Teko Modise made his 50th international appearance and believes the squad are moving in the right direction. "We played an experienced side and most of the time when we had possession, they had nine players behind the ball so it was hard," he said.
"We created chances and there was a real improvement, although obviously we were disappointed not to win. Seeing the crowd and hearing the vuvuzelas makes us want to perform for the supporters and hopefully that can continue at the World Cup."
Parreira must trim his squad to 23 by next Tuesday and he used the opportunity to test out some foreign-based players in the second half. He said: "I know what we want and every game it gets more clear. The competition is very tough in the squad but it is a good problem for the coach. Everybody has had his opportunity but in the end it will be a very tough decision."
South Africa are in Group A with Mexico and former champions France and Uruguay.