JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Tournament debutant Cape Verde dampened South Africa's spirits at the African Cup of Nations by holding the host to 0-0 in the opening game on Saturday.
Cape Verde defied Bafana Bafana and a big home crowd with a mature, impressive performance to earn a draw and a point in Group A in persistent rain in Soweto -- and even had the best chances to score.
First, when Helson Ramos screwed a shot wide of the right post when clear in the area in the 15th minute. Ramos again then forced Itumeleng Khune into a scrambling save with his diving header in the 72nd that nearly caused a far worse result for South Africa at the start of its second big football party in three years.
South Africa's lackluster form continued under coach Gordon Igesund and underlined fears the host could make less of an impact at its African Cup than it did in its World Cup in 2010.
Ramos and forward Ryan Mendes looked more dangerous than South Africa's attack in patches for the first half, and Igesund cut a nervous, under-pressure figure on the sideline as he watched his players fail to break down a team that had no experience of the big occasion before Saturday.
Lehlohonolo Majoro's pullback for fellow forward Bernard Parker 10 minutes into the second half briefly lifted South Africa's 80,000-plus fans, who blew desperately on their vuvuzelas and launched into a Mexican wave in an attempt to get Bafana Bafana going in the second half.
Even Siphiwe Tshabalala, the midfielder who lit up the opening game at the World Cup for South Africa three years ago, couldn't inspire a response from the home team. He curled a left-footed free kick straight into the arms of Josimar Dias in Cape Verde's goal in his only meaningful contribution in the first 45 and was substituted early in the second.
Thuso Phala won a free kick for South Africa in a good position in the second minute but nothing came of it and the Cape Verdeans settled and grew in confidence as the game progressed.
Highly rated Mendes' first contribution was a long-range drive that drifted wide of Khune's goal. He also found space at the back post from a corner in the 44th but lashed a shot off target from a tight angle.
South Africa looked for newcomer Majoro up front as often as possible with long balls out of defense, and one of his breaks forced Cape Verde 'keeper Dias to come rampaging out of his area and about halfway to the halfway line to avert danger and clear.
South Africa's midfield and forward line was static and lacked the creativity to unlock a defense marshaled cleverly by Cape Verde captain Fernando Neves.
South Africa: Itumeleng Khune, Anele Ngcongca, Bongani Khumalo, Siyabonga Sangweni, Thuso Phala, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Kagisho Dikgacoi (Lerato Chabangu, 45), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Thulani Serero, 59), Thabo Matlaba, Lehlohonolo Majoro (Katlego Mphela, 69), Bernard Parker.
Cape Verde: Josimar Dias, Fernando Varela, Elvis Macedo, Fernando Neves, Luis Soares (Julio Tavares, 63), Antonio Varela, Heldon Ramos (David Silva, 77), Marco Soares, Nivaldo Santos, Ryan Mendes (Roni, 86), Carlos Tavares.