World Cup hosts South Africa say they are aiming to be among the 16 best teams at the tournament next year.
Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said his team wants to make it to the group stages.
”We want to jump to the last 16 at the World Cup,” Parreira, who led Brazil to victory at the 1994 tournament, told AFP.
”We should go through to the next round, we don’t want to be the first team to host the World Cup and go out in the first round.”
”Our target is the last 16, but the sky is the limit for us. Every team, not just ourselves, should be thinking of the group stages,” he said.
”I don’t want to choose any opponent. I want my team to be exposed to every team. The mission is very clear that we have to get to the group stages.”
That’s a tall order for a team that has found the back of the net only 10 times in their last 18 matches.
The world’s most-watched sporting event is now six months away and being staged in Africa for the first time — a fact that only adds to the pressure on the team known as Bafana Bafana to perform.
A better-than-expected fourth place at the Fifa Confederations Cup last June has helped fuel enthusiasm for a team that runs hot and cold.
Bafana held Brazil for 88 minutes in the semifinals before bowing to a Dani Alves goal off a free kick.
South Africa (86) goes into draw alongside North Korea (84) as the lowest countries on the Fifa rankings.
Despite the lack of firepower, the South African Football Association president said he’s confident that his side will make it to the group stage, irrespective of who they draw on Friday.
:We will need to go past first round and get to the lottery stages,” Kirsten Nematandani told AFP.
”I see victory going to South Africa [in the opening game]. I am looking forward to a great World Cup,” he said. ”Bafana Bafana will certainly be ready.”
Bafana Bafana will enjoy some home advantages.
It will be the first World Cup staged during winter since Argentina hosted and won the 1978 tournament. They will also have experience playing at high altitude in cities like Johannesburg, which is 1 700 metres above sea level.
”This World Cup is a wonderful opportunity for South Africa, a wonderful opportunity for Africa … for the whole world to trust Africa, to say you can do it,” said Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
”You play in Africa, you have advantages of home matches, you have the whole continent behind you,” he told the opening of a Soccerex business conference.
Bafana Bafana also has one advantage that has raised concerns from European and Asian teams — the high levels of noise caused by long plastic trumpets called vuvuzelas.
Compared to the noise of herds of trumpeting elephants, the vuvuzelas have already won the blessing of Blatter, who said: ”trumpets will be there”. — Sapa-AP