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.