Sigh of relief for South Africa at Confed Cup

BLOEMFONTEIN - Hosts South Africa expressed a sense of relief at reaching the Confederations Cup semi-finals despite being outplayed by Spain and losing 2-0 in their final group match on Saturday. "For us it's great relief and it's history too for us to make the semi-finals of a competition like this," captain Aaron Mokoena said after the match, which saw Spain finish top of Group A with nine points and South Africa second with four. "It's a good feeling to get to the semi-final but there are mixed feelings too after the loss. But we were beaten by a big country with good players. "Getting to the semi-finals is a big positive and is encouraging and shows we have some direction," he told Reuters. South Africa came runners-up after Iraq failed to beat New Zealand in Johannesburg which finished goalless. "There is a sense of relief but we have qualified and that was our goal," said midfielder Steven Pienaar. "Spain are not ranked number one for nothing and it showed we still have a lot to learn. It was a great experience for us. "This is a good challenge for us as we prepare for the World Cup," he added. South Africa midfielder MacBeth Sibaya, whose caution on Saturday means he is suspended for Thursday's semi-final, said the team was unaware of their fate until after the match. They huddled in a group on the pitch and celebrated once the stadium announcer told the crowd Iraq had drawn. South Africa find out on Sunday out who their opponents in the last four will be when Group B is completed. The semi-final will be played in Johannesburg on Thursday.