Mbuthu makes his Bafana debut
Mbuthu makes his Bafana debut

Posted in News on Sep 07, 2002.

Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Patrick Mbuthu made his international debut for the South African national team in the African Nations Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast in Abidjan on Sunday.

Mbuthu, a late call-up to the national squad, came on a second half replacement for injured striker Nkosinathi Nhleko.

Bafana Bafana withstood a second-half onslaught from Ivory Coast in Abidjan on Sunday to force a 0-0 draw in Group 11 of their 2004 African Nations Cup qualifier.

It was precious point for Bafana Bafana who fielded a severely depleted team after injuries ruled out defender Lucas Radebe, midfielders Delron Buckley and Siyabonga Nomvete and striker Benni McCarthy.

Midfielder Jabu Pule, the enfant terrible of South African football, was another absentee from a match watched by a capacity 40 000 crowd at Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium after missing the flight from Johannesburg.

Ironically, Pule stand-in Japhet Zwane made an outstanding international debut on the left side of midfield and almost scored a late winner with a probing second-half cross that bounced back off the top of the bar.

Ivory Coast also had pre-match problems with France-based striker Ibrahim Bakayoko dropped after expressing unhappiness at recalled defender Cyrille Domoraud being named captain.

With South Africa ranked fourth in Africa and Ivory Coast eighth, Group 11 is the strongest of the 13 Nations Cup pools and only the winners qualify for the 2004 finals in Tunisia.

The Ivorian Elephants needed the three points and often came close only to be deprived of a goal by wild shooting or heroic defending on a hot, partly cloudy afternoon in the Ivorian commercial centre.

South Africa, playing their first major match since being eliminated in the first round at the 2002 World Cup, also created several chances in a fast-pace encounter well controlled by Malian officials.

The best fell to Nkosinathi Nhleko, one of several Norway-based players in the Bafana Bafana line-up, but he blazed over after defensive hesitancy left him with just goalkeeper Jean-Jacques Tizie to beat.

But most of the action was in the South African goalmouth and late in the first half Ivory Coast applied relentless pressure with two free kicks failing to find the target.

A superb tackle by Mbulelo Mabizelo foiled Kangah Akale after the striker from Swiss club FC Zurich burst through from midfield and seemed poised to break the deadlock.

Robert Nouzaret, a French coach beginning a second spell in charge of the Elephants, replaced Bonaventure Kalou from Uefa Cup holders Feyenoord of the Netherlands with Kandia Traore from Tunisian champions Esperance at half-time.

Didier Drogba came tantalisingly close nine minutes into the second half, beating veteran goalkeeper Andre Arendse with a low shot that flew just wide of the post.

Marc Guei, one of many France-based Ivorians, also came on and was a constant menace down the right flank as desperate South Africans conceded a litany of free kicks.

Individually, the Ivorians were superior, with silky skills and blinding pace, but they often took the wrong option near goal with Guei guilty of gross over-elaboration on one occasion.

Ivory Coast did get the ball into the net deep in stoppage time, but Arendse had been fouled by Traore and the South Africans wore the broader smiles when the final whistle blew.

South Africa host group outsiders Burundi on October 12 in the central city of Bloemfontein in the next pool match. The return match with the Ivorians is scheduled for June.

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