A good year for SA soccer

2010-12-23 14:44

There is no doubt that 2010 has been an extraordinary year for South African soccer, in ­particular for Bafana Bafana, the men’s senior national team.

Siphiwe Tshabalala’s name ­became the most popular on the continent after his stunning goal against Mexico in the opening game of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, helping to raise the team’s ­profile in world football.

The Kaizer Chiefs midfielder’s spectacular goal has now been nominated for the Fifa Goal of the Year award.

The year also saw the rise of Steven Pienaar, who finally showed South Africans why he is such hot property in Europe by pulling off a scintillating ­performance in Bafana ­colours.

After successfully hosting the first World Cup on the ­African continent, Bafana ­Bafana also continued to climb the Fifa rankings, finishing the year on a high and moving from 85 in January to 51 this month.

This is due to their good showing leading up to the World Cup, with 11 unbeaten games.

In fact, Bafana have only lost twice this year in 17 games – a 3-0 defeat to Uruguay in the World Cup and 1-0 to USA in the Nelson Mandela Challenge last month.

Credit should be given to ­Brazilian mentor Carlos ­Parreira, whose arrival last ­November arrested Bafana’s ­losing streak of nine games ­under his compatriot Joel ­Santana.

Under the 1994 World ­Cup-winning coach, Bafana played an entertaining brand of football, which saw them go 13 games unbeaten since November last year until they lost to the South Americans in the second game of the World Cup.

When Parreira took over the reins, Bafana were ranked 86th and their non-participation in the Africa Cup of Nations in ­Angola saw them slipping ­further to the 90th spot.

But with help and understanding from the Premier Soccer League, Parreira was able to take the team to long training camps in Durban, Brazil and Germany, from which they came back a much-improved side.

Unfortunately, they failed
to reach the knockout stages
of the World Cup after only
winning one group game
against France, claiming the scalp of the former champions in their last group match in
Bloemfontein.

Even after the departure of Parreira, Pitso Mosimane ­continued where the Brazilian had left off by beating Ghana in a friendly in August.

The Black Stars were the best performers of the six African representatives at the World Cup, and were unfortunate to lose to Uruguay in the ­quarterfinals.

Under Mosimane, Bafana are on top of Group G in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers after beating Niger 2-0 and getting
a credible draw against ­Sierra Leone.

Mosimane’s only defeat came at the hands of the USA in the Mandela Challenge last month.

It’s a pity the same cannot be said about the junior national teams, which bombed out of the African Youth Championships ­qualifiers.

Amajita, the national Under-20 team, under the guidance of Khabo Zondo, were the worst performers, having won just one in nine games – they lost three times to minnows Lesotho this year.

Amajimbos, the Under-17 team, also did not have a ­fruitful year after being ­eliminated in the second round of their qualifiers.

The South African Under-17 women’s team, Bantwana, had a tough time at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Trinidad and ­Tobago, where they came back home without a win in three matches, having conceded a whopping 17 goals.

Banyana Banyana, the ­national women’s senior team, was ­also a letdown as they failed in front of their home supporters to book a place at next year’s Women’s World
Cup in ­Equatorial Germany
after being beaten by Guinea.

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