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South Africa's World Cup Group A Prospects

06/04/10

Permalink 01:17:40 pm, by amilnal
Categories: Sports, Commentary

South Africa's World Cup Group A Prospects

A quick glance at the four teams' lineups and one would quickly point to South Africa's squad as the weakest of the four. But like so many things in the world of Football, it's not quite that simple.

Before South Africa took the pitch against Iraq in their opening match in the Confederations Cup, there was much speculation about the potential of the Bafana Bafana. After extravagant opening ceremonies, few questions were answered following a 0-0 draw against a defensive-minded Iraq. The second match against New Zealand yielded a better result with a 2-0 win, and an encouraging double from Red Star Belgrade (now FC Twente) forward, Bernard Parker. Following two disappointing, yet well-fought defeats to Spain (2:0) and Brazil (1:0 on an 88th minute free-kick by Dani Alves) South Africa found themselves in the third-place match against Spain.

After 90 minutes South Africa found themselves down 2-1, only to see Katlego Mphela dramatically equalize with a thrashing free kick. Despite their loss in extra time, to yet another set piece from Spain's Xabi Alonso, South Africa had put together a convincing string of results against two of the strongest teams in the world. Surely, Parreira will expect nothing less than performances of this caliber from his team come June 11.

With the World Cup looming, many seem to be reverting back to similar predictions made about South Africa before the Confederations Cup. Not only did the Confederations Cup provide South Africa with a significant boost of confidence, but they are also coming off of an eleven game unbeaten streak, the latest being a 5-0 thrashing of Guatemala. It would be a grave mistake for teams in Group A to underestimate the talent of the South African-based players in the Squad. Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela, who has scored 15 goals in 29 appearances at the international level, will most likely be starting alongside Bernard Parker who netted in their latest match. This is a strike force chosen by Parreira ahead of South Africa's all-time leading scorer, Benni McCarthy. In the midfield, the in-form Steven Pienaar and the talented Orlando Pirates midfielder, Teko Modise, will be streaking down the wings of pitch providing service for Mphela and Parker to finish. To anchor the backline, South Africa's most-capped player and captain, Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth), will be paired with the massive Matthew Booth (Mamelodi Sundowns). This is a pairing who caused some of the best strikers in the world trouble, and will certainly try their best to do the same to the likes of Forlan, Vela, and Anelka.

It is quite possible, almost likely, that South Africa will indeed stumble against difficult opposition and fail to reach the knockout stages of the tournament. However, our beloved game has never failed to provide us with the unexpected, and the stage is set for South Africa to do just that. Mexico, France, and Uruguay beware, despite a squad mostly made up with South Africa-based players, the bafana bafana could cause many problems. And with tens of thousands of deafening South Africans behind them, do not be surprised to see the rainbow nation make it through to the knockout rounds of the tournament. As their Carlos Parreira put it, "Once the ball moves, anything can happen."

As the countdown to the World Cup continues, and the days slowly diminish to less then ten days until this historic tournament, an imminent sadness grows inside of me. Only a few days before the opening match between South Africa and Mexico

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1. My Mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
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