South Africa

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPASTIMES -

THE last time South Africa hosted a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional foot­ball tour­na­ment was in 1996.

Go­ing into the tour­na­ment no­body gave them a chance, but in the end, two goals by Mark Wil­liams in the fi­nal against Tu­nisia se­cured them a first-ever Na­tions Cup tri­umph.

Four­teen years later the coun­try will again play host to an in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment and again no­body ex­pects Bafana to win the com­pe­ti­tion – and if suc­cess in 1996 was un­ex­pected, a win in the World Cup would be a mir­a­cle.

Two un­suc­cess­ful par­tic­i­pa­tions at the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 and rapidly sink­ing for­tunes at the African Cup of Na­tions since victory in 1996 has seen Bafana shares plum­met.

But if fans thought that it can only get bet­ter, 2009 showed them that it could get worse, with de­feat fol­low­ing de­feat.

This prompted the South African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion to get rid of coach Joel San­tana, with some re­ports say­ing he re­signed, while oth­ers claimed he was fired.

SAFA turned to San­tana's pre­de­ces­sor, Car­los Par­reira and per­suaded him to re­turn and his first act was to bring back striker Benni McCarthy, a player who spends most of his time on the Black­burn Rovers sub­sti­tutes bench.

It is now up to the coach to for m to­gether a com­pet­i­tive team for the World Cup, which can – at the very least – ad­vance out of the group.

Al­though South Africa can ex­pect some help from the draw process, Par­reira faces an up­hill bat­tle. To say they’re favourites is a stretch, but they are at home – and stranger things have hap­pened.

The Star: Steven Pien­aar is prob­a­bly as close as South Africa gets to hav­ing an in­ter­na­tional star.

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