Can Bafana Bafana keep host streak alive? (Group A team profile)

May 26th, 2010 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, May 26 (DPA) Every host nation of the previous 18 World Cups has advanced past the first round. That streak is in serious peril as South Africa face a paramount task of even gathering a point at the 2010 World Cup.
Bafana Bafana have one of the most successful coaches in World Cup history in Brazilian Carlos Albert Parreira, Brazil’s 1994 cup-winning coach who is at the World Cup for the sixth time with his fifth different nation.

The South Africans also have upwards of 70,000 fans tooting vuvuzelas live in the stadium at each game as well as tens of millions rooting for them on the streets and in their homes.

But, unfortunately they also face the daunting Group A with matches against World Cup veterans such as Mexico, two-time world champions Uruguay and 1998 winners and 2006 finalists France.

“This group is very tough. By chance, the first World Cup was played 80 years ago in Uruguay. And Uruguay, Mexico and France all played in it… So they are in the business for 80 years. People forget about this sometimes,” said Parreira.

“Of course the World Cup means a lot. We have a big responsibility for the country. The country who hosts the World Cup always wants to do well. I am not thinking about what happens if the team doesn’t advance from the first round. I’m not going to place this on my players’ shoulders. This (a host nation not reaching the second stage) will happen one day. We just have to do our best.”

Parreira did not have a qualifying campaign to get his team ready for the World Cup, putting them through a series of friendly matches instead. The 67-year-old Brazilian also held two extended training camps in Brazil and Germany in March and April with his South Africa-based players. His goal was to form the shape of the team and then his overseas players would fit in.

Parreira’s men have shown they have talent and can play competitive football when spurred on by the home crowd. At the 2009 Confederations Cup, they narrowly lost to Brazil in the semi-finals and to Spain in the game for third place.

The coach knows his team will be young and rather small and he will rely on a quick passing-oriented game, which he feels suits his players best.

The key to Bafana Bafana’s showing in South Africa 2010 may be the performance of the nation’s prize player Steven Pienaar of Everton, especially since the country’s most successful striker Benni McCarthy will come to the World Cup with a lack of game experience since he has been out of favour at West Ham United.

South Africa have a storied sports past, especially in rugby but also by winning the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations. But Bafana Bafana will have a hard time reaching the minimum goal of getting beyond the first round.

THE COACH - CARLOS ALBERTO PARREIRA

Apart from winning the 1994 World Cup with Brazil, Carlos Alberto Parreira is best remembered for being in charge of four different countries at the World Cup (Kuwait, 1982; United Arab Emirates, 1990; Brazil, 1994 and 2006; and Saudi Arabia, 1998). Only Bora Milutinovic has one more country in his resume.

The well-travelled 67-year-old coach, who has had stints in several Middle Eastern countries, as well as Turkey, came under criticism during his earlier tenure with the South African team and in April 2008 resigned, citing his wife’s health problems the reason.

He was brought back when the South African Football Association parted ways with his successor Joel Santana.

THE STAR - STEVEN PIENAAR

Steven Pienaar is probably as close as South Africa gets to having an international star. The 28-year-old Johannesburg-born midfielder is a regular in the Premier League with his club Everton and has been linked with a move to a bigger club.

He started playing for the School of Excellence before signing his first professional contract with Ajax Cape Town. After impressing for the Ajax Amsterdam feeder club, he was brought to the Netherlands, where he played an important part in helping the Dutch club win the league in 2002 and 2004.

A less spectacular move to Borussia Dortmund followed. He was then sent to Everton on loan, before making the move permanent.

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