Bafana have it all to do

2009-12-06 09:20

JUNE 11, 2010 . . . Soccer City . . . 4pm. This historic date will

see a fierce battle between vuvuzelas and the Mexican wave.

And this date will be the defining moment for Brazilian coach

Carlos Alberto Parreira and his Bafana Bafana troops as they kick off the Fifa

World Cup against Mexico.

After the glitz and glamour of the World Cup final draw on Friday

had settled down reality hit home.

It will not be easy for Bafana after they were handed a tough draw

against three countries ranked in the top 20 in the world.

It could have been worse. Bafana were drawn against two former

world champions, France (1998) and Uruguay (1930, 1934) and reigning Gold Cup

winners Mexico.

Now the big question is: Can the 86th-ranked Bafana stop Thierry

Henry’s infamous “hand of frog” handball goal, Diego Forlon’s theatrics in the

box and Rafael Marques defensive abilities? Or will they be the first World Cup

host country to be knocked out in the first round?

“Impossible is nothing,” declared Parreira yesterday. Putting on a

brave face he compared the three countries to Mount Everest.

He was confident of conquering the mountain and planting the South

African flag at the summit.

“There is nothing like an easy draw in the World Cup, all groups

are well balanced. The onus is on us to take up the challenge and show what we

can do,” he said.

But for Bafana to survive, he said, they would need proper

planning, commitment, passion, mental fitness and to be smart.

“Successful people

are those who believe in themselves and these countries don’t scare us. Other

teams should be worried about us, not the other way around. To do well in the

World Cup you need resilience and mental preparation is the key.”

Parreira, who has tipped Brazil to win the World Cup, warned his

players that those who wanted to make the World Cup team would have to be fit,

adding that it was vital for players to attend their planned camps in Brazil and


Though he did not want to single out any of the three countries in

Group A, he believed France had the advantage because it had eight players

playing at elite European clubs.

But he said Bafana had played against top-ranked countries before

and would know how to handle them. Both France and Uruguay struggled in the

qualifiers and were the last countries to book their places at the finals – but

bad qualifiers normally do well in the finals.

Seventh ranked Les Bleus beat Bafana on their way to lifting the

1998 World Cup on home soil and it could be a good omen if Bafana were to beat


Mexico, who are 15th in the Fifa rankings, have beaten Bafana

twice, 4-0 and 4-2, but the World Cup hosts won their last clash 2-1.

The last time Bafana played Uruguay (ranked 19) the game ended in a

goalless draw and coach Oscar Tabarez promised that his team would prevail the

next time.

In all fairness the draw was not kind to the other five African

countries either as they were pitted against the world’s super powers.

While Nigeria will open their account against two-time world

champions Argentina, Ivory Coast will engage Portugal in a group that also

includes Brazil and Korea DPR.

German soccer icon Franz Beckenbauer and England star David Beckham

are tipping the Didier Drogba-led Ivory Coast as the African team to do well but

after the draw it will be difficult for bookmakers to get more bets on


Ghana’s Black Stars will have to negotiate their way in a group

consisting of three-time world champions Germany, Serbia and Australia.

Cameroon take on Holland, Denmark and Japan while Algeria play

England, the US and Slovenia.


remains to be seen which ­African team will go all the way but history is on

their side as every World Cup has been won by a team from the continent on which

it was played.

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