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   June 13, 2002 | 1105 IST


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No bliss for ignorant South Africans

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Ignorance was not bliss for South Africa on Wednesday when they were knocked out of the World Cup in agonising circumstances.

As they prepare to head home, Bafana Bafana must surely question whether they were right to block their ears to news of what was happening in Paraguay's match against Slovenia, which was taking place at the same time.

Paraguay scored a decisive 84th minute goal in the group B match in Sogwipo to seal a 3-1 victory and knock South Africa out of the tournament on goals scored.

The South Africans, who were losing 3-2 to Spain in Taejon at the time, appeared unaware that Paraguay's third goal meant they needed an equaliser to reach the second round.

South Africa's Aaron Mokoena (R) and Cyril Nzama They passed the ball along their back line during injury time, making little effort to win back possession from the Spaniards as the seconds ticked away.

As they left the pitch some of the players appeared bewildered and wandered over to their bench to ask whether they had made it to the second round.

Afterwards, they gave conflicting accounts of what they had known.

Head coach Jomo Sono said he deliberately kept his players in the dark so as not to distract them from the task in hand against Spain.

"I wanted them not to know about the result (of the Paraguay match) because they must concentrate," he said. "Can you imagine if I tell them with 10 minutes to go that Paraguay is leading 3-1? They would just die."

But despite the supposed lack of information, some of the South African players said they, and their coaching staff, were aware of what was going on.

"Ten minutes before the end of our game it was suddenly panic stations," South African substitute striker George Koumantarakis said.

"The bench was shouting that we needed to score another goal. That was the information we got."

Striker Benni McCarthy said he got his information from the opposition.

"When I came off the pitch some of the Spanish players were saying they thought we were through," he said.

"It was only when I got to the dressing room and they had the Slovenia-Paraguay match on the TV, and I saw they (Paraguay) had scored their third goal and I knew it was finished for us."

To add to the confusion, Sono was reportedly taken ill after the match only to appear before reporters minutes later in good health. He said his only ailment was a trapped nerve in his shoulder which has been bothering him for days.


The exact details of who knew what as Wednesday's drama unfolded will no doubt remain unclear.

But the fact remains that the South Africans should surely have equipped themselves with as much information as possible regarding the events in Sogwipo.

Adapting to changing circumstances is part of the game and a good coach should pride himself on his ability to shape the nature of a match to the best advantage for his team.

To do that, he needs information, and if he deliberately deprives himself of it he has lost half the battle.

Perhaps it would have made no difference. Perhaps the South Africans would have lost to Spain anyway, even if they had known how desperately they needed an equaliser.

But at least they could have made a go of it.

Instead, they bow out of the World Cup knowing that one of their last actions in the tournament, when attack was their only viable option, was a tame backpass to their own goalkeeper two minutes into injury time.

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