What better place to start our journey through the World Cup starting field than with the home country – South Africa.
Check out the other Group A contenders – Uruguay Mexico France
• Nickname: Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The Boys)
• Colours: Gold and Green
• FIFA Ranking: 90
• How They Got Here: Automatic Qualifier (Host country)
• World Cup pedigree: Qualified for the ’98 and ’02 World Cups, never progressed to knockout stage.
So far, a host country has never failed to progress beyond the group stages. That’s quite a pedigree, but this time round, the host nation just happens to have the lowest ranking of all the 32 candidates.
Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil)
A better man for the job is hard to find than the curious Brazilian. He has achieved great success, think ’94 Brazil, and tremendous failure, think ’98 Saudi Arabia where he was given his marching orders before the group stages were even complete. However, he has experience as his hallmark, and for the men of the South this is a valuable commodity.
Steven Pienaar (midfielder, Everton)
The majority of the Saffers are home grown talents who ply their trade in the unglamorous South African Premier Soccer League. Steven Pienaar is the obvious standout here and much of the host nation’s chances lie squarely on his diminutive figure. Pienaar has forged a successful career in the English Premier League with Everton where he has been in and out of the starting line up. Always eye catching with his turn of pace, technically gifted feet and extravagant hair, Pienaar has been a consistent performer since his move to the Toffees in 2007-08. 2010 has been a big year for the former Ajax child prodigy despite being ruled out for 11 weeks of the season. In 2009, Pienaar was an understudy to the mercurial Mikel Arteta and played much of that campaign thanks to the Spaniard’s injury. 2010 has seen him cement his spot despite Arteta, culminating in 3 successive league goals at the turn of the year. Pienaar should be well rested after his stint in the injury ward and primed for a big tournament in South Africa. He’ll marshall any attack mounted.
Really, there’s little to show off here. Benni McCarthy (Forward, West Ham United) has been underwhelming in 2010 at the London outfit. He is South Africa’s all-time leading scorer, but really, his better days seem well behind him. McCarthy is never too far from controversy and maintains a less than perfect relationship with his manager. Aaron Mokoena (Defender, Portsmouth) is another player plying their trade at an unsuccessful club. Portsmouth’s defence can be considered porous at best, and the man branded as the axe by local media hasn’t done much to stop their relegation. He’ll lead the defence and wear the captain’s armband in June.
Nothing to spruik here. The best I’ve come up with is Katelgo Mphela (Striker, Mamelodi Sundowns), who by all reports is lightening quick. The secret got out in the Confederations cup, where he was used as a sub and scored twice to send the Spaniards to extra time. Parreira will use him in the latter part of games if they find themselves behind and in need of goals (he’ll probably play every game).
The veteran Matthew Booth fits the mould perfectly more for his looks than anything else. He’s a tall centre-half with no experience outside South Africa. He’ll have a torrid time marking the likes of Anelka, Benzema, Henry and Ribery and is most likely to be the scapegoat of any failure.
Without any real quality to speak of, Parreira plays an unflattering 4-2-2-2 (check my maths). Don’t expect the two holding midfielders to offer anything going forward – they play more like an extra two central defenders. The system has been attacked by every known pundit, but the Brazilian tactician is sticking to his guns.
No one seems to be complaining too much about making the trek to Africa. Rather, everyone’s happy they’re throwing the party. But really, Bafana Bafana aren’t the main attraction. Once the bigger nations arrive, the South Africans will be pushed aside.
In this clip the South Africans look more like South Americans. The first goal is all class. A long passing build up combined with lots of movement off the ball, leading to a well-taken finish. It also features an absolute free kick cracker from the afore mentioned Mphela. The 3-2 loss to Spain is not a bad result. Watch in in Spanish here
More than 50% of all paragliding records have been set in South Africa
Only qualified thanks to technicality + Lowest ranked team + Group of Disorder (France and Mexico struggled in qualification) – Home nation never missing out on knockout phases = Bottom of the group (3 losses without a goal)