This world cup will be known as “a first for everything”. The reason is apparent when one looks at the first group and notices the teams South Africa is paired with. Historically, the host nation has never failed to make it out of the group stage, but this world cup will be different. Although SA does field some talented players, especially up and coming ones, they will not have the strength to overcome the likes of France, Mexico, and Uruguay. However, do not discount the option of a surprise following in the steps of South Korea and Japan at the 2002 World Cup games. Ultimately it will come down to their desire and the 12th man home crowd to invigorate the team that were drawn into a rather unlucky group.
They have shown they can play with the big teams through the Confederations Cup, but ultimately they still lost the games. Additionally they upset many fans by not qualifying for the Nations Cup, something many South Africans thought they could do easily.
South Africa may have some emerging talent in a few players, but lack of big league experience could prove to be their undoing. Expect a close race for the 2nd place spot behind France, in which SA will narrowly miss out.
Steven Pienaar who plays his club games at Everton has impressed many over the past year. He is speedy with a good touch, and has the ability to play in the middle as an attacking midfielder, or to play outside and provide the crosses and assists. Often criticized for not translating good club playing to the international level, the hopes of Bafana Bafana will rest on his shoulders.
Benedict McCarthy is the all time leading scorer for South Africa, and if he is still fit enough there is the possibility of notching a few more. A little past his prime for this World Cup it will be pertinent to outpace speedy defenders, and be the strong man up front to put pressure on the opposition in an effort to create opportunities for the rest of his team.
(Update: McCarthy was not selected for the Squad)
If these two players work well together then South Africa could stand a chance. Pienaar is of a smaller build compared to most players so he will be reliant upon McCarthy’s strength. And don’t be surprised by a few quick goals that catch the defense flat-footed if Pienaar can present a nice throughball for McCarthy to run onto.
My Prediction: Group A 4th Place.