South Africa’s senior team is known as Bafana Bafana (The Boys). They won the 1996 African crown and finished as runners-up in the 1998 edition in Burkina Faso. They have qualified for two FIFA World Cups, the first in France 1998 where they drew two of their matches before heading home after the group stages. They also lined up in 2002 in Korea/Japan, the first World Cup to take place in Asia.
The team is currently coached by Brazilian tactician Carlos Alberto Parreira, who succeeded his countryman Joel Santana. Parreira brings plenty of experience to the Bafana Bafana with a World Cup under his belt (Brazil ’94). He took South Africa on a tour in Germany and also in Brazil where they played against the country’s top club sides like Cruzeiro and Santos in the build up to the World Cup.
Current skipper, Aaron Mokoena, is the most capped player in the country’s history. He also became the youngest player to feature for Bafana Bafana when he earned his first cap at 18 years. Striker Benni McCarthy, who is the only South African to score more than 3 goals in an international match, holds the record as all-time top marksman with 31 international goals. McCarthy also scored the country’s first FIFA World Cup goal when South Africa held Denmark to a 1-1 draw in France 1998. Previously, Shaun Bartlett was the country’s top goal scorer with 29 international goals, including a brace against Saudi Arabia at those same finals in France.
The southern-most country in Africa has produced a strong string of talent in the last 10 years including McCarthy, Steven Pienaar, former Manchester United midfielder Quinton Fortune, Delron Buckley, and Mokoena, just to name a few. While Pienaar’s imagination and maturity in the midfield has caught the eye of many enthusiasts, McCarthy remains the most successful export from the country, with a UEFA Champions League medal under his belt. Up-and-coming players include youngsters like Tsepo Masilela, Siboniso Gaxa, Itumeleng Khune, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Bernard Parker.
The Confederations Cup last year show-cased what South Africa is capable of doing this upcoming World Cup. They have a pretty sound defense with duo Mokena and Booth but they lack the strength and decisiveness in front of goal to finish off their opponents. They had a stellar outing against one of the heavy favorites to take the World Cup, Brazil, only losing to an injury time free kick by substitute Dani Alves. South Africa has been hit with an injury bug at the worst possible time; keeper Emile Baron will be out of the tournament after a fantastic season at club level with Super Sport United, which will be disappointing for Parreira .The midfield creativity will have to come from Pienaar and Parker as they will have to serve McCarthy to put the ball in the back of the net in order to be successful.
How much does home-field advantage matter? Bookies have tabbed France as the favorite of Group A, but they are not overwhelming favorites. Mexico and Uruguay are both capable of winning this group given their previous successes in the World Cup. And then the host country, the underdog no matter how you spin the numbers. Will the home-field advantage propel the Bafana-Bafana to glory? It is hard to gauge just how large the home-field factor will play into this group. Although no home team has ever failed to advance to the next round, my prediction is that this year it may just happen, with France and Uruguay advancing, leaving the home team and its fans in tears.
Did you know you can Bet World Cup 2010 Online?