ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
|South Africa qualified undefeated from the
CAF group 5. Closest rival Zimbabwe was four points behind.
here for details
|Participations: (1) 1998
|Best placing: First round 1998
|Topscorer: Shaun Bartlett, 2 goals
|Shaun Bartlett scored twice for South
Africa in the last World Cup and will probably be the dangerman yet again alongside
VERDICT: First round exit
|South Africa haven't showed anything so far to indicate
something else than bottom position in this group. They might get a point from one of these teams, but not
enough to put two teams behind them.
AFRICA'S FAILING FOOTBALLING SUPERPOWER
by Matthew Monk
Of all the African contenders for the 2002 World Cup
the strongest and most sustained challenge should come
from the continents most southern outpost - the
Republic of South Africa. In this land still
hideously scarred by centuries of institutionalised
racism and Apartheid there exists (unlike anywhere
else in Africa) modern, developed infrastructure,
western style banking and commercial operations and a
relatively stable social and political structure.
More than this, football is the real people's game in
a sport mad country that is home to some of the best
rugby and cricket players in the world.
So why then are South Africa going to be eliminated
from the first group stage of the World Cup, with
barely a hope of scoring goals, let alone challenging
South Africa have the least chance of making the
Second Round of any of the African qualifiers, even
though they are in a comparatively weak group
(according at least to FIFA's bizarre ratings system).
For South Africa to progress they will have to
eliminate two from Slovenia, Paraguay and Spain - a
not impossible task, but one that is highly
improbable. Pointers to this impending failure were
readily available for all to see this January in Mali,
when South Africa failed to qualify for the
semi-finals of a poor African Nations Cup. Usually to
be eliminated by the host nation at any major
championship would not be seen as a big upset. But in
a fractured continent such as Africa where the nations
are not competing from the same starting point, when a
regional superpower such as South Africa loses to a
tiny country (in comparison) like Mali questions have
to be asked as to why. Consider for a moment that as
a comparison the equivalent result in the European
Championship would be Italy losing to Wales or
Belarus, and the deep mire South Africa is in becomes
This is not to argue that South Africa have a divine
right to win the African Nations Cup because they have
larger financial resources than Mali or Senegal, or
because they have the best stadia and transport
infrastructure on the continent. Rather, South Africa
are competing in Africa from such a high starting
position that they should be beating smaller teams
regularly. And by now (ten years after their return
from international isolation) South Africa should be
competing competitively on the world stage in the same
way Nigeria or Cameroon do. Anything else for the
only nation in Africa able to even think of itself as
becoming more developed is failure, and as such does
not bode well for the 2010 World Cup when it will
surely host the tournament.
A major problem South Africa has is that most of its'
big stars (Pierre Issa, Eric Tinkler, Shaun Bartlett)
are not playing for even second tier European teams
and have no real experience of playing even in the
UEFA Cup, let alone of the Champions League. This is
something that cannot be underplayed. Far from
saddling the top European players with too much
football, the Champions League is exposing the world's
best footballers to each other on a regular basis, and
is allowing innovative coaching systems to be created
seemingly all the time. Look at how England, France
and Spain can now fill out their teams with 20 to 25
year old players and still expect to come close to
winning the World Cup, something unthinkable even ten
years ago. Players like Gaizka Mendieta, Raul,
Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, David Beckham and
Michael Owen have developed into world class players
three or four years before their counterparts in the
1970s and 1980s did simply because of their exposure
to international quality football week in, week out.
And no South African player is exposed to anything
like this high level of competition, so is not
advancing at the same rate. Even the likes of Quinton
Fortune (of Manchester United) who is eligible to play
in the Champions League is lucky to get a game against
Lille or Nantes and is not even considered when big
games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Bayern
Munchen or Juventus come around.
South Africa is instead having to draw the majority of
its squad from struggling English league teams, as
well as from its' own league system - and quite simply
these players are not good enough. Coach Carlos
Queiroz has little chance to find new talent this
close to the finals and instead may go back to old
stagers like Phil Masinga and Mark Fish - that is of
course if Queiroz himself is still in charge in June.
All in all, South Africa only have four truly talented
players that could be considered a threat to Spain,
Paraguay or Slovenia. In goal, Hans Vonk is a big,
competent performer for Heerenveen in Holland, and he
has been the subject of repeated interest from several
Serie A clubs. But it is in attack that South Africa
hopes to offer some resistance in Korea. Captain
Shaun Bartlett can be an effective attacker for
Charlton in England. In qualifying he proved South
Africa's main weapon and finished up with four goals.
More than this (as he has proved in England) he is
capable of scoring amazing individual goals.
Nonetheless, it is to Sibusiso Zuma of Udinese and
Benni McCarthy of Celta Vigo that most South Africans
will look - both players are fast and have the
necessary ball skills to threaten opposing defenders.
These players proved more than enough to see South
Africa through a weak group containing Zimbabwe,
Malawi, Burkina Faso and Guinea. In fact South Africa
were easily the best team, dropping only two points -
and that was away in Ouagadougou against Burkina.
But will the challenge of playing in the company of
Raul, Mendieta, Zahovic and Chilavert prove too much
for South Africa as it did when they met Zidane and
friends in 1998? Unfortunately for the millions of
Bafana-Bafana fans, I think that it very much will be.
A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY
by Jan Alsos
South Africa made their World Cup debut four years ago and
came away with two draws against Saudi Arabia and Denmark and a loss to eventual
winners and hosts France.
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information
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