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Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Sunday, 16 May 2010 17:05 UK

South Africa kick-start World Cup run-in with Thai win

By Piers Edward
BBC Sport, Nelspruit

South Africa striker Katlego Mphela
Mphela scored a brace against Thailand

World Cup hosts South Africa kick-started their final run-in to the finals with a 4-0 win over Thailand in Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium.

The friendly marked the opening of the World Cup venue where 30,000 vuvuzela-blowing fans made a deafening din.

Bafana Bafana opened the scoring after just 22 minutes as Siphiwe Tshabalala curled home a free-kick.

Katlego Mphela went on to grab a first-half brace and substitute Bernard Parker wrapped up the scoring late on.

The margin of victory equals South Africa's previous best result - a 4-0 win over Chad in 2007 - with Bryan Robson's Thailand making little impression.

"This was an important game as it was the first one back at home after our camps in Brazil and Germany," said South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

"I was looking for a performance and a result, and I take many positives from the game - disregarding the quality of the opponent."

Playing the first of a series of home friendlies as they enter the final straight of their World Cup preparations, Bafana Bafana flew out of the blocks.

Mphela's strike partner Surprise Moriri was heavily involved in the opening stages but the diminutive forward squandered a number of good opportunities.

I was looking for a performance and a result, and I take many positives from the game - disregarding the quality of the opponent.

South Africa coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira

After his fine opening goal, Kaizer Chiefs' Tshabalala nearly doubled the lead when his soaring 25-yard drive was well-saved by Thai keeper Kawin Thamasatchanan.

But the reprieve was short-lived as Mphela bundled home from close range from the resulting corner after centre-back Bongani Khumalo had made a decisive flick-on.

Three minutes later, South Africa's fans, who last saw their side score three goals in 2008 - were in dreamland as some fine midfield play ended with Modise teeing up Mphela to dink home his second.

The Mamelodi Sundowns striker, who has been linked with a move to Birmingham City, should have made it three just before half-time but somehow failed to connect with Lucas Thwala's dangerous low cross across the face of goal.

South Africa continued to force the play after the break, with Mphela going close three more times, while midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane drilled a 25-yarder wide.

Thailand's sole effort on goal came after 62 minutes when Datsahorn Thunglao's free-kick forced a good low save from South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

Late on, substitute Siyabonga Nomvete had the ball in the net following one of South Africa's best moves of the match but the goal was ruled out because Siboniso Gaxa was offside.

At the death, Parker ran through on goal from deep before slipping the ball past Thailand's substitute keeper to cap off a memorable win.

Meanwhile, Robson said that the pitch at the Mbombela Stadium, which had caused serious concern earlier this year when reporters found it to be bald, had held up well and was in good shape.

Despite hosting its first match, the Nelspruit venue, which will host four World Cup matches, has yet to finish its press area, executive boxes and stadium environs.

South Africa's other World Cup warm-up games are against Bulgaria on 24 May, Colombia on 27 May, before a clash with Denmark in Soccer City on 5 June.

Bafana Bafana will face Mexico, Uruguay and France in Group A at next month's finals.

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see also
Robson sounds Cup trumpet warning
16 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Mphela postpones Birmingham talks
12 May 10 |  African
McCarthy dropped by South Africa
01 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Parreira wants quality friendlies
08 Apr 10 |  African
Bafana encouraged by Brazil trip
05 Apr 10 |  African
World Cup is our Everest - Parreira
08 Dec 09 |  African

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