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Confederations Cup - Iraq hold South Africa

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Denny crane

Denny crane
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Hosts South Africa missed several chances as they were held to a goalless Group A draw by Iraq in the opening match of the Confederations Cup in Johannesburg.

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In a poor match, the Bafana Bafana should have won late on but Katlego Mashego missed when put clean through while Bernard Parker inadvertently blocked a goal-bound header from team-mate Kagiso Dikgacoi.

The first half was a drab affair in which Iraq started brightly before South Africa gained in confidence.

Chances were few and far between with MacBeth Sibaya's zipping drive, tipped around the post by Mohammed Kassid, and a goalmouth scramble from the subsequent corner the only real opportunities.

Iraq initially looked threatening on the counter attack but 6'6" defender Matthew Booth started to dominate star striker Younis Mahmoud while the Bafana Bafana stepped up their passing and put Bora Milutinovic's men on the back foot.

Neither side came any closer to making a breakthrough though and a poor 45 minutes saw them go in goalless.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with Iraq very conservative and South Africa toiling but lacking any kind of final ball or ability to create space in the danger positions.

The first real opportunity fell to Teko Modise midway through the half but, unmarked and with a clear shot on goal, he embarassingly sliced the ball high and wide.

Five minutes later Thembinkosi Fanteni headed Modise's corner just wide when he really should have scored.

Iraq were starting to tire, affording South Africa more space and substitute Mashego spurned a gilt-edged chance to win the game when he raced through one-on-one with Kassid, who saved bravely at his feet.

The worst was yet to come though. Kassid flapped at a cross from Sibonisa Gaxa on the right, Dikgacoi flew in at the far post but a bullet header - fizzing into the empty net - hit the hapless Parker on the goal-line as his own momentum took him into the goal.

It was a terrible moment for South Africa, who in truth deserved to beat an Iraq side so lacking in ambition that, when awarded an injury-time free-kick on the right wing, they elected to play it short and waste time in the corner instead of crossing it in to risk a possible win.

In what should be a straight race between both teams for a place in the semi-finals, the most convincing win against group minnows New Zealand is expected to determine who progresses, with European champions Spain tipped to win every game comfortably.
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