Bafana must face up to the champs - Parreira

2009-12-05 00:00

WHAT was shaping up as a challenging group in the 2010 World Cup finals for Bafana Bafana, became even more so when 1998 champions and 2006 finalists France were the last team drawn from the pot for Group A, in last night’s Final Draw in Cape Town.

South Africa will play Mexico in the opening match of the World Cup at Soccer City on June 11, then face the third member of Group A, Uruguay, in Tshwane on June 16, before closing off with France in Bloemfontein on June 22.

France controversially qualified for 2010, after the Thierry Henry handball incident in their playoff against Ireland. They were not seeded for the draw but remain a football powerhouse and are ranked seventh in the world.

Bafana’s Matthew Booth, a draw assistant, was characteristically confident when asked on stage for his thoughts on his team’s draw.

“It’s a tough group,” Booth admitted. “We didn’t expect anything else. But, I must say that I don’t envy the Mexicans who are going to be subjected to 90 000 vuvuzelas in the opening game [against Bafana].”

Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was realistic about the prospect facing Bafana.

“For the first time in the last few World Cups, you cannot say there is a group of death or an easy group. It is the most well-balanced World in the last five or six,” the Brazilian said.

“And, among those balanced groups, I would say our group is one of the most balanced and also one of the most difficult.

“It is the only group to have two world champions, Uruguay and France, who have got experience.

“But we do not have to regret any­thing. This is what we have, this is what we have to face. Then we have to prepare ourselves in a very positive way.

“It gives us a challenge. Only with very good mental preparation will we be ready to get through this group.”

Winning the opener against Mexico is likely to be crucial to Bafana’s chances.

“I don’t look at the first game — if you get a good result against Mexico and then lose against Uruguay and France, it doesn’t help you,” Parreira said.

“… Of course, to start with a good result in a positive way helps increase the confidence.”

France coach Raymond Domenech was non-committal about the draw for Group A.

“It’s a group like the others,” he said. “We have four teams, with three games each, and we have to win the game to qualify.”

Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said playing the hosts of a World Cup is never easy.

“The hosts always have a great possibility of going through. For now, we just have to look for similar teams to get used to playing the sort of opponents we will meet next year.”

“I expect a very tough [opening] game. The hosts will want to do their best possible in front of the world, and their coach is a very famous former World Cup winner. With all the fans and noise of the vuvuzelas, it will be very tough.”

Uruguay might have had to qualify for the World Cup via a 2-1 aggregate victory over Costa Rica, but the fifth-placed South American finishers are certainly no pushovers. Plus, they have the pedigree of being one of only seven countries to have won a World Cup.

Mexico have been perennial qualifiers for the World Cup without progressing far in the tournament. In the 2006 World Cup, Mexico comfortably qualified for the second round where they lost 2-1 in extra time to Argentina

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