Bafana’s 2010 countdown under way

Expectations will be high when hosts South Africa launch their 2010 Soccer World Cup countdown with a friendly against neighbours Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

It is the first and only confirmed warm-up game for Bafana Bafana ahead of the June 11 tournament opener against Mexico at the revamped 90 000-capacity Soccer City stadium on the outskirts of Soweto.

South Africa did play a non-cap training match against African football pygmies Swaziland in this Indian Ocean city last Saturday, but a 6-2 win may have inflicted harm as well as good.

Bafana supporters are glass-half-full theorists, always looking on the bright side as the team they worship have slumped from 1996 African champions to one that failed to make the biennial tournament this month in Angola.

“Bring on the World Cup,” screamed some fans after Swaziland were routed, conveniently forgetting that it is Mexico and former champions Uruguay and France who await the host nation in Group A come mid-year.

Other supporters celebrated the “biggest victory” by South Africa since they returned to international football in 1992 after almost three decades in an apartheid-induced wilderness.

Unfortunately, the match will not be recognised by world governing body Fifa, so a 4-0 victory over Chad in a 2008 Nations Cup qualifier remains the high point of Bafana prowess.

But the two-week Durban camp for local footballers that concludes with the Zimbabwe fixture has been a useful exercise judged by some of the finishing against the Swazis.

Gone was the bad old South African habit of trying to walk the ball into the net, and in its place some ferocious shooting from players like Gert Schalkwyk and half-time substitute Franklin Cale.

The latter was a revelation as a wide midfielder, adopting a shoot-on-sight policy so lacking last year when South Africa managed an embarrassing return of 10 goals from 18 outings.

While predecessor Joel Santana was obsessed with negativity in midfield, favouring destroyers over creators, replacement and fellow Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is keeping his engine-room options open.

Apart, that is, from Everton wide man Steven Pienaar, who is going to play a pivotal role if South Africa are to avoid becoming the first World Cup hosts eliminated after the mini-league first phase.

Zimbabwe coach and former star defender Sunday Chidzambwa has chosen a mix of local and South Africa-based players for the latest instalment in a long-running, always competitive, rivalry.

Esrom Nyandoro from Pretoria-based Mamelodi Sundowns will lead a Warriors squad that includes tigerish midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha and consistent scorer Cuthbert Malajila.

The South African Premiership resumes next week and finishes on March 6 with Parreira taking a squad to Brazil for the rest of that month and to Germany in April. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

As opposition mounts, Zimbabwe’s president lashes out

Emmerson Mnangagwa has accused ‘dark forces’ of destabilising the country

Big retailers need to step up to the plate

To stave off a multi-generational malnutrition crisis, the food industry must work with government to provide highly nutritious foods at cost during the pandemic

Crime stats mark a bitter start to Women’s Month

We must celebrate women’s achievements this month while agitating for structural change, argues Luke Waltham

South Africa prioritises fossil fuels over clean energy in post-Covid-19 recovery packages

The country is among the G20 countries who have invested in electricity produced from coal, oil and gas at the cost of addressing climate change

Challenges and opportunities for telemedicine in Africa

Telemedicine in Africa is currently limited by the availability of basic infrastructure, but, considering the lack of doctors in rural areas, it is a vital component in addressing the continent’s healthcare needs

Fight the disease of corruption in the same way we fight the coronavirus

Gogo Dlamini, Themba Dlamini’s mother, died of Covid-19, but Mzanzi has a chance to rid the country of fraud and exploitation and instead serve ‘Gogo Dlamini’, the people of South Africa

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday