South Africa will play their biggest ever match when facing Mexico on June 11, 2010. And the games will only grow in magnitude until the hosts are knocked out of the tournament.
World governing body FIFA will hope that is later rather than sooner, but there are genuine fears South Africa could become the first hosts ever to go out in the group stages. Uruguay and France are their other opponents, and while they will fear South Africa’s ‘12th man’ – the fans – on the pitch they will have less to worry about against a team that struggles to score goals.
Some dismal results saw South Africa slip as low as 86th in the world in 2009, and they failed to qualify for the African Nations Cup, finishing 11 points behind Nigeria in their group.
Bafana Bafana did reach the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup where they lost 1-0 to Brazil. But to get out of their group, they only had to win one match against New Zealand (2-0), and were held to a 0-0 draw against Iraq and beaten 2-0 by Spain in their other matches.
Joel Santana was replaced by fellow Brazilian and former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who insists his side will look to play the ball on the ground at the World Cup. He has also taken a hard line with his players, stressing that they need to be playing regular matches with their clubs in order to be called up for the World Cup.
But Parreira can only do so much. The lack of a solid structure at grassroots level is not something that can be rectified by one man.
- Best World Cup Result: First-Round (1998 and 2002)
- Best African Nations Cup Result: Winners (1996)
- Record Scorer: Benni McCarthy
- Most Capped Player: Aaron Mokoena
- Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira
- Captain: Aaron Mokoena
23-man South Africa World Cup Squad:
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Shu-Aib Walters (Maritzburg United)
Defenders: Matthew Booth (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bongani Khumalo (Supersport United), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa), Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk), Siyabonga Sangweni (Golden Arrows), Lucas Thwala (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Lance Davids (Ajax Cape Town), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Fulham), Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), Teko Modise (Orlando Pirates), Surprise Moriri (Mamelodi Sundowns), Steven Pienaar (Everton), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan)
Forwards: Katlego Mphela (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siyabonga Nomvete (Moroka Swallows), Bernard Parker (FC Twente)
Group Matches:Friday, June 11, 2010 v Mexico
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 v Uruguay
Tuesday, June 22, 2010 v France
Prediction: First-RoundSouth Africa will do very well to get out of this group. In France and Uruguay they will face teams who are hard to break down, and with a lack of flair in midfield and attack, these are likely to be low scoring games. Mexico will present a different test but will prove tough opponents under Javier Aguirre.
Parreira will need the likes of Steven Pienaar on form to have any kind of chance but there is the possibility that South Africa could be out of the competition by the time they play their third match against France on June 22 – just 11 days after kicking the tournament off.
To find out more about the tournament, visit the World Cup section.