COSAFA rivals South Africa and Zimbabwe could not be separated on Friday in their FIFA World Cup qualifying second round opener, drawing 0-0 at the National Sports Stadium in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare in a Group G clash. In what appears to be a group that will be among the most tightly contested in the CAF region of qualifying, Zimbabwe will rue an opportunity to get off to a good start while a young South African side playing its first competitive match under manager Hugo Broos has plenty of positives and negatives to draw ahead of a crucial home match against Ghana in three days.
The attacking talent on the pitch for both sides provided plenty of potential for goals, but several factors contributed to the lack of scoring. South Africa’s Bafana Bafana continue to be in a stage of transition under new manager Hugo Broos, and despite the inclusion of European based attackers Percy Tau and Luther Singh, neither of the stars contributed to their full capability. Bafana’s best first half opportunity came in the 17th minute when Singh played a square ball to SuperSport United player Teboho Mokoena, who unleashed a thumping drive from 30 meters out that forced Zimbabwe keeper Talbert Shumba to parry wide.
Zimbabwe played zero exhibition games since achieving qualification for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations, only competing with a domestic based squad in the COSAFA Cup over the summer. Abroad based stars Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat and Tino Kadewere lacked chemistry with Lyon forward Kadewere lacking match fitness due to being limited to substitute appearances in Ligue 1. Billiat had a 30th minute opportunity for the Warriors when he held off a defender while receiving a pass in the South African penalty area, but his shot from a tough angle went over the bar.
South Africa came the closest to breaking the deadlock in the 66th minute. Halftime substitute Bongokuhle Hlongwane found himself free on the right side of the Zimbabwean penalty area and shot from a sharp angle. The ball managed to sneak under Shumba but defender Takudzwa Chimwemwe was there to cover on the goal line and clear.
Highlights from the match are in the link below.