South Africa 1-1 Paraguay: Percy Tau's late goal rescues Bafana Bafana

The Belgium-based striker says Bafana Bafana are excited to be in Tunisia, but he has challenged his teammates to do their best on Sunday

Percy Tau scored a stoppage time goal to help Bafana Bafana draw 1-1 with Paraguay in the 23rd edition of the Nelson Mandela Challenge at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday night. 

Federico Javier Santander scored in the first half to hand Paraguay the lead, but the Tau's late equaliser denied the visitors only their second victory over the South Africans. 

The last time Paraguay beat Bafana was back in 2002 when they recorded a 2-0 win soon after the Fifa World Cup tournament in Korea and Japan. 

Bafana were banking on their two draws and a single defeat over Paraguay going into this encounter, but given their struggles of late, Baxter's men were always expected to have their work cut out.

Stuart Baxter made several changes to the team that faced Nigeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), with the likes of Itumeleng Khune, Hlompho Kekana, Thulani Serero and Themba Zwane among others being left out of the starting line-up. 

Darren Keet, who has been a consistent performer for Bidvest Wits over the past two seasons, cracked the nod alongside the likes of Vincent Pule, Motjeka Madisha and Teboho Mokoena among others.

However, it was clear from the start that Baxter was going to rely heavily on both Percy Tau and Lebo Mothiba up front.

The two attackers gave the South Americans all sorts of problems in the opening stages of the encounter. 

Bafana created a few clear-cut goalscoring chances in the first half, but as this has been the case in previous matches, they still couldn't find the back of the net.

Paraguay proved to be very physical in midfield, and their defence often stood firm to limit Tau's movements on and off the ball, especially in the final third.

Despite dominating proceedings for the better part of the half, Bafana were caught napping at the back when Paraguay hit the woodwork with Keet in no man's land before the home side cleared their lines. 

At this stage, Bafana had lost the shape and control of the game as they played long balls to Tau and Mothiba to try and use their pace to unsettle the opposition defence.

Bafana were made to pay for their inability to put the ball into the back of the net soon after the half-hour mark when Santander beat Keet with a cool finish to make it 1-0 to Paraguay after the Wits goalkeeper had spilled the ball inside the box.

Bafana didn't recover from that setback, and they actually made several defensive mistakes which could have easily put the game to bed. 

Nonethless, Paraguay should have themselves to blame for not taking their chances, considering that they again hit the post before an Innocent Maela error saw them breach the Bafana defence in the latter stages of the first half. 

Baxter was clearly not happy at the fact that his team gave away possession cheaply in their own half which led to the goal.

The 65-year-old changed things around at the start of the second half with an aim to give as many players as possible a chance to get some minutes under their belts, including Fortune Makaringe, Dino Ndlovu, Ronwen Williams and Buhle Mkhwanazi. 

The four players did little to change the complexion of the game although there were some promising attacks midway through the second half. 

Bafana looked very threatening in the final minutes of the game, thanks to Serero's introduction.

With time running out for Bafana and as a section of fans started leaving the venue, Serero played a through ball to Tau, who beat the offside trap before slotting the ball into an empty net to make it 1-1. 

This was Bafana's fourth draw in the Mandela Challenge. They have won 11, drawn three and lost eight matches in the previous 23 editions. 

While the result may have brought a smile on many South African football fans given that Bafana almost lost the match, the truth is that Baxter's team is far from where it should be.