By Mo Allie
After their morale-boosting goalless draw against tournament favourites Brazil, South Africa will be wary of the pitfalls of complacency when they face Denmark in their second Group A game in Brasilia on Sunday (kickoff midnight SA time).
With all four teams having drawn their opening games, the group is wide open. A win against the Danes will take South Africa a massive step closer to a quarter-final berth but coach Owen da Gama has warned his side to maintain their focus and performance levels.
‘We have experience of what happened in Sydney in 2000. We beat Brazil but lost the other two games (against Japan and Slovakia), so that performance amounted to nothing because we didn’t go to the next round.
‘We are wiser now. We won’t underestimate the other teams or let this performance get the better of us,’ he added.
The Danes, who qualified as one of the top four finishers at last year’s Uefa U21 tournament, were held to a goalless draw by Iraq in their opening game and need a victory to give themselves of realistic chance of progressing as their last group game is against a wounded Brazil.
While the defence rightly earned the plaudits for their gritty performance against the hosts, South Africa forwards looked threatening in opposition territory until their focus had to change due to Mothobi Mvala’s second half red card.
Captain Keagan Dolly together with Lebogang Mothiba and Aubrey Modiba showed sublime passing skills as they mesmerized the Brazil defence at times but they will need to be sharper in front of goal if South Africa are to overcome a mainly home-based Denmark side.
‘Without undermining Denmark, they play European football, which is direct. They use tall strikers who more often than not want high balls in the box. They also play balls into space and with the kind of defenders we have, we should be able to deal with that,’ said Mothiba.
“On the other hand, South African football is about flair and quick one-twos. We have to be alert of the aggression Denmark will bring to us, and the counter attacks that they like to play, but I believe we have a very good chance of doing well in this match.
‘We need to continue from where we left off against Brazil. That performance was outstanding, so if we can go a up notch we could come out victorious on Sunday. Yes, the previous match is behind us and we have to move on, but we had a lot of positives that can help us against Denmark,’ added the France-based striker.
Their performance against Brazil makes South Africa favourites but that tag is always accompanied by pressure that can sometimes derail even the most talented of teams. An early goal, of course, would be a welcome antidote.