South Africa came to the party on a productive Moses Mabhida afternoon with a near polished performance punctuated by a goal in each half, the first from an Orlando Pirates defender and the other from a Kaizer Chiefs striker.
Siyabonga Doctor Sangweni volleyed from an acute angle on the blind side while Lehlohonolo Majoro waltzed his way through the Angolan defence and from an acute angle once more, slid the ball into the net. It ended 2-0.
The presence of the immense pressure of expectation counted for nothing as the hosts played a free-flowing game, a little bit more methodical than the previous encounters since Gordon Igesund took over.
The former Moroka Swallows coach was a relieved man when Sangweni ventured forward to give the Bafana Bafana that elusive goal. That opened the flood-gates for the rest of the tournaments and suddenly, South Africa look like champions in waiting.
That victory was complemented by the 1-1 between Carpe Verde and Morocco may not have handed Bafana Bafana any perceived advantage. It would have been preferable to have the Moroccans win and have them face the hosts looking for a single point to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The way the islanders played, they have the ability to play in the quarter-finals. Morocco have lost their touch over the years and they have to dig deeper against South Africa to produce the required result.
What made the South African game a little different was the urgency to attack and win the ball back at the soonest possible convenience. Penetration was superior and the delivery of the final ball was effective.
The attacking players saw much of the ball and the Morocco defending had lots of defending to do. The execution of the ball by Sangweni was tip-top. A few more polished moves and clinical finishing could have handed Gordon Igesund’s men a bigger scoreline.
The defending unit never gave a thing away. The midfield operation was cohesive and functional, thwarting and smothering attacks while threading the balls into the necessary and vital spaces.
That smooth operation brought into life the roles of Tokello Rantie and Katlego Mphela as attackers. Furman, Parker, Mahlangu and Phala started being more effective on the offensive by their unit always exposed the defense who happened to be resolute.
The midfield ventured forward and was turned inside out by the pace of the Angolans. Save for Mahlangu and Furman who maintained a central midfield presence, the central position looked secure. Letsholonyane and Oupa Manyisa added defensive steel and the attacking flair appropriately when they came on
It was however Majoro who came in and became ever so useful by his runs and offensive movement on and off the ball. With better finishing, he could have taken the match ball home tonight.
Bafana won their first AFCON match since 2004 when they defeated Benin in Tunisia. The best is yet to come, if they can take that performance a gear up. They ran their socks off but that was not top gear.