Over the past sixteen years that the Confederations Cup has taken place, South Africa have only once qualified, when they failed to make it past the knockout stage in 1997. It is therefore quite fortuitous that South Africa is hosting this year’s tournament and the Bafana Bafana have “earned” an automatic qualification. On paper, at least, South Africa doesn’t appear to stand a chance, with their most recognizable player being Steven Pienaar. But host countries do always enjoy a boost of adrenaline. Home cooking and all.
What else do you need to know?
- On the eve of the tournament, the South African players demanded an improved bonus if they should happen to win the tournament, although it appears that the dispute has been settled.
- Pienaar picked up an ankle knock in a friendly against Poland.
- Ticket sales are going well.
Prediction: South Africa lucked out when they drew Iraq and New Zealand in their group, along with powerhouse Spain. The odds of getting at least a draw against Spain are still very long. Notwithstanding any bad blood created over their recent escapade with bonus money, Bafana Bafana should still advance to the knockout stage if they take care of business against Iraq and New Zealand. After that, in a single elimination format, where opposing teams might start longing to go on well-deserved holidays, and where fluky things can happen.... you just never know. Perhaps then it’s not so surprising that the bookies are giving better odds for South Africa to win the tourney than the good ol’ U.S. of A. (more on them tomorrow). If any country other than Spain, Italy or Brazil are going to win the Confederations Cup this year, well, you are probably looking at them.
Having read my
half-assed in-depth and well-researched discussion of the South African national team, I’d briefly like to turn your attention to this amusing press release extolling the virtues of the 2009 Confederations Cup from Danny Jordaan, the CEO of the 2010 FIFAWorld Cup Organising Committee South Africa. Among points about “ushering in a vital new culture of football in our country” (fair enough), there’s the point that President Barack Obama will be watching “with intense interest.” I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, Obama might have more important things to do. Mr. Jordaan also reminds us that everything is on track for the World Cup next year. Everything’s perfectly fine. Nothing to see here. Stadiums are done, hotels are built, safety not an issue, keep moving along.....
Here’s the Bafana Bafana lineup (notice that I really enjoy typing Bafana Bafana?). Some great names there, my favorite being Innocent Mdledle.
GK: Brian Baloyi (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Rowen Fernández (Arminia Bielefeld), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)
Def: Matthew Booth (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), Morgan Gould (Supersport United), Bongani Khumalo (Supersport United), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa), Innocent Mdledle (Orlando Pirates), Aaron Mokoena (Captain) (Portsmouth), Bryce Moon (Panathinaikos FC)
Mid: Lance Davids (Supersport United), Kagiso Dikgacoi (Africa Golden Arrows), Benson Mhlongo (Orlando Pirates), Teko Modise (Orlando Pirates), Steven Pienaar (Everton), MacBeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan), Siphiwe Tshabalala (SA Keizer Chiefs), Elrio van Heerden (Blackburn Rovers). Bernard Parker (Red Star Belgrade)
Fwd: Thembinkosi Fanteni (Maccabi Haifa), Katlego Mashego (Orlando Pirates), Katlego Mphela (Mamelodi Sundowns FC)