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2010 World Cup Focus: South Africa - A Look At The Host Nation

Posted by Walker Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Guest writer/Jay Scardina
Football fans seem go through a skin peeling change as it gets closer to the World Cup. We support our club teams through thick and thin, but every four years we will support any player as long as he plays for our country. Some of us even cheer on other countries that we do not call home. The World Cup has been a years long journey for some countries. Getting through qualifying stages and making it to South Africa has not been easy for some teams. For South Africa it may not have happened at all, had they not been the host country. South Africa ranks last in the FIFA rankings for the 32 teams playing this June. South Africa has one thing going their way, they will be playing at home no matter who they play.

South Africa's history with the World Cup has not been a good one. Being banned from participating for many years because they refused to follow FIFA's rules about non-discrimination. They have only qualified to the tournament 2 times, in 1998 and again in 2002. Both times the team was taken out in the group stage. They failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2006. South Africa the country will be under a microscope this Summer, to prove that they can handle a large event, but the team will also have a lot to prove. The host country always wants to do well, and it would be shame for South Africa to repeat their past performances. So lets take a look at some of the players to watch, and the countries that they will play in their group.

For South Africa's national team one player stands out, Steven Pienaar. He has been working very hard for Everton in the Premiere League since joining in 2007. He is a constant threat to the midfield, stealing the ball, and assisting with goals. He is also a great player to take free kicks, and has been known to score goals from them at tough angles. Benni McCarthy is one of the players looking to make a name for himself this Summer. He has bounced around in several European clubs, he now plays for West Ham United. Joining them in February of this year he failed to make an impact before being injured. The other player up front, Bernard Parker may be South Africa's best man up front. He helped the team defeat New Zealand during last year's Confederation Cup, and recently scored a goal in the game against Thailand. South Africa's first choice for goalkeeper may not be decided until the tournament starts. Rowen Fernandez is one choice, and he currently plays in the Bundesliga. Another choice may be 22 year old Itumeleng Khune, who played during the Confederations Cup. He made a great save against a penalty kick from Spain's David Villa during the group stage. Aaron Mokoena will be leading the pack in the back for South Africa's defense. He played for Portsmouth this past season, who made it to the FA Cup Final against Chelsea. He has been the captain for the national team in the past, and he will more than likely wear the armband in June. Most of South Africa's national team is made of up players from clubs within the country. So, don't be surprised if you don't recognize a lot of names, unless you follow South African football.

South Africa's coaching situation has been tumultuous. Coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, who won the World Cup coaching Brazil in 1994, was with the team from 2007-2008, and then left for personal reasons. Joel Santana, a fellow Brazilian, coached the team from 2008-2009. He was blamed for the team's weak performances and a losing streak of 9 games. Parreira came back in 2009, and has since been brought some hope and wins for South Africa. The team has a record of 3 draws and 2 wins for the past 5 games that they have played. All of the games were friendlies, and one must keep in mind that some top players may have been on club duty for some of these games. The last game was against Thailand, and they won 4-0. Granted Thailand are not the strongest team in Asia, but a 4-0 win is still impressive. They have 3 more friendlies lined up against Bulgaria, Colombia, and Denmark, before the World Cup. It is obvious that these friendlies were set up to get the team warmed up before the tournament. South Africa has only won one game in the World Cup, back in 2002 against Slovenia. South Africa faces some tough competition in Group A. Their first game will be against a strong Mexican team, that has found new life with their new coach. They then face Uruguay and France. Overall this is a tough group with each team wanting to prove themselves. The French want to prove that they did not make it to the tournament solely on Henry's handball, Mexico is a rich football nation, but they have never won the World Cup. Uruguay has not won the tournament since 1950, and would relish the chance to make it past the group stage. I think that South Africa wants to prove that they belong in this tournament. Most pundits are not giving South Africa a chance past the group stage. They failed to qualify for this year's African Cup of Nations, and they came in 4th place in the Confederations Cup. However, if South Africa can beat Mexico they stand a very good chance at making past the group stage. The first win of the tournament can give the team the confidence they need to go further. That opening kick off will open the tournament and the world to South Africa.

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