POLOKWANE (South Africa): It was a record night for South Africa and captain Aaron Mokoena on Monday as the 2010 World Cup hosts outclassed Guatemala 5-0 in a warm-up match.
The winning margin was the biggest since Bafana Bafana (The Boys) returned to international football in 1992 after 28 years of apartheid-induced isolation, bettering four-goal margins against Chad and Thailand.
And it came on the day centreback Mokoena became the first South African footballer to win 100 caps and wore those figures on the back of his shirt just in case anybody was unaware.
The victory also stretched to 11 matches the unbeaten run of the host nation in friendlies since Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira returned last November for a second spell in charge.
Katlego Mphela converted a penalty in each half and Reneilwe Letsholonyane and second-half substitutes Surprise Moriri and Bernard Parker were the other scorers for a team that led 2-0 at half-time.
But South African supporters would be well advised not to get carried away as a Guatemala side ranked 114 do not inhabit the same football planet as Group A rivals Mexico, Uruguay and France, all top-20 nations.
“Technically we were not brilliant but our attitude was very good. Our opponents often had nine men behind the ball so it was good to score five goals,” said Parreira.
“I am not in a very good mood, however, as tomorrow I trim my squad from 28 players to 23 and cut some dreams. For three months I have seen wonderful commitment from all my players and I thank them.”
Caretaker Guatemala coach Francisco Melgar said: “South Africa are ready for the World Cup and can defeat Mexico in the opening match. The stage is set for Bafana to have a good run.”
Guatemala lie 31 places below South Africa on the FIFA order of merit suggesting they would struggle to contain the home team and so it proved with early pressure yielding a 12th-minute goal.
But the penalty converted by Mphela with goalkeeper David Guerra diving the wrong way should not have been awarded as big-screen replays showed Gustavo Cabrera handling outside the area.
Unadventurous fullbacks have clipped the attacking wings of South Africa in previous warm-ups and it was pleasing for Parreira to see leftback Lucas Thwala create the second goal with a run and cross that Letsholonyane fired home.
The second half was just three minutes old when Moriri added a third, firing past substitute Marvin Barrios from close range after Mphela set up his Mamelodi Sundowns team-mate.
Niger referee Chaibou Ibrahim was not having a good game and the 40,000 crowd were stunned on a cold, clear night when he awarded the Central American minnows a penalty after the ball struck Thwala on the chest.
However, captain Guillermo Ramirez made a hash of the spot kick, timidly striking the ball to his right and Josephs guessed correctly to parry a shot that was cleared.
Yet another dubious penalty came on 56 minutes with the ball hitting the leg of a Guatemalan and when the protest storm blew over, Mphela sent Barrios the wrong way.
Steven Pienaar struck a post from a free kick before Parker snatched the record fifth goal eight minutes from full-time by unleashing a rising shot from the edge of the area that flew into the roof of the net. — AFP