FIFA WM 2010, Topnews
29. Mai 2009
Bafana Bafana: a quick history
South Africa's national football team, known as Bafana Bafana, has a relatively short international history. That's because the first team to represent all South Africans only played its first match in 1992 – two years before the country's first democratic elections.
Bafana's first match was played in Durban, against Cameroon, on 7 July 1992. It proved to be a strong debut against one of Africa's leading teams, which had made the quarterfinals of the World Cup only two years previously. Doctor Khumalo scored the game's only goal to give South Africa a 1-0 win.
Class of 2009
Can the Bafana Bafana class of 2009 recapture the verve and fighting spirit of 1996?
Despite that victory over the Indomitable Lions, the effects of isolation soon showed as South Africa failed to qualify for the 1994 African Nations Cup after suffering four defeats in succession – to Cameroon, Zambia, Nigeria and Zambia.
African Nations Cup 1996
Two years later, however, Bafana Bafana's place at the African Nations Cup finals was assured when the country hosted the tournament.
Under coach Clive Barker, the national team rose to the occasion, topping its group after beating Cameroon 3-0 and Angola 1-0 before losing 1-0 to Egypt.
In the quarterfinals, Bafana beat Algeria 2-1 to set up a semi-final clash against Ghana, the only team that had won all its games up until that stage of the competition. Putting in one of the finest performances ever by the South African national team, the home side triumphed 3-0 in front of 75 000 spectators at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Bafana faced Tunisia in the final, after the North Africans had defeated Zambia 4-2 in the semi-finals. In front of a crowd of 80 000 at the FNB Stadium, Neil Tovey's men gave the supporters what they wanted by beating the Tunisians 2-0, with Mark Williams netting both goals.
Taking on the world champions
In the same year the potential of South African football was demonstrated when Bafana Bafana took on world champions Brazil, who were at full strength, in a Mandela Cup match in Johannesburg.
Philemon Masinga put South Africa into a 25th-minute lead and Doctor Khumalo then made it 2-0 to the home side at the break, to the delight of the Bafana fans.
The Brazilians fought back after the break, with Flavio netting in the 56th minute. Twelve minutes later, Rivaldo made it 2-2.
Then, with only four minutes left, Bebeto, one of the heroes of Brazil's 1994 World Cup winning team, snatched the winner for the visitors.
Although South Africa lost, the match provided ample proof that the team's African Nations Cup title was no fluke. It also proved to be a wonderful celebration of the game of football, and of the role Nelson Mandela played in bringing democracy to the country.
World Cup qualification
Bafana Bafana continued to excel on the international stage when, in 1997, the team qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time.
They faced the difficult task of taking on the hosts, France, in their first match in Group C. The French, with probably the best team in the country's history, beat South Africa 3-0. France went on to beat Brazil by the same score in the final.
Bafana Bafana drew 1-1 with Denmark in the team's second match, then shared a 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia. The two draws and one loss saw South Africa exit the event in the group stages after finishing third in its group.
African Nations Cup title defence
In the same year, Bafana defended their African Nations Cup title in Burkina Faso. In a controversial decision, taken shortly before the finals, coach Clive Barker was sacked and Jomo Sono appointed in a caretaker role. Some forecasts were dire, but the South African team again rose to the challenge to perform well.
They finished second behind the Ivorians in their group, after a 0-0 draw against Angola, a 1-1 draw with the Ivory Coast and a 4-1 win over Nambia. A young striker by the name of Benni McCarthy made his mark by netting four goals inside 21 minutes in the victory over the Namibians.
In the quarterfinals, South Africa beat Morocco 2-1 as McCarthy and David Nyathi netted. That earned them a semi-final place against the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the semi-final, McCarthy scored on the hour-mark to level the scores after South Africa had fallen behind in the 48th minute. He then struck in extra time to earn Bafana a 2-1 win and a place in the final against Egypt, who had beaten the hosts Burkina Faso in the other semi-final.
The dream of successive titles was brought to an end in the final when the Pharaohs scored two early goals to take a 2-0 victory. Nonetheless, given the uncertain build-up to the tournament, it was a good showing by South Africa.
Despite very average results in 1999, Bafana managed to win the Afro-Asian Trophy after beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Cape Town and then drawing 0-0 in Riyadh.
In November of the same year, Bafana Bafana achieved a notable milestone when they scored their first win over European opposition. It came in the Nelson Mandela Challenge against Sweden at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. Siyabonga Nomvete was the hero, netting an 87th minute goal to snatch a late victory for the home side.
South Africa again qualified for the African Nations Cup in 2000, hosted by Ghana and Nigeria.
Bafana Bafana topped Group B, beating Gabon 3-1, the DRC 1-0, and playing to a 0-0 draw with Algeria. In the quarterfinals, Siyabonga Nomvete scored the only goal as South Africa eliminated one of the hosts, Ghana.
In the semi-finals, SA's footballing nemesis, Nigeria, beat Bafana 2-0. South Africa ultimately finished third after beating Tunisia 4-3 from the penalty spot after the teams had played to a 2-2 draw in the playoff.
2002 World Cup
Although South Africa's African Nations Cup performances had gradually slipped over three continental finals - from winners to finalists to semi-finalists - their performances in at the 2002 Fifa World Cup in South Korea and Japan were noteworthy.
Competing in Group B, they drew 2-2 with Paraguay and then beat Slovenia 1-0. That left Bafana with a shot of making it to the round of 16, but a tough encounter against highly fancied Spain awaited the side.
In a back-and-forth tussle, Spain took an early lead through Raul. Benni McCarthy struck back in the 31st minute to make it 1-1. Gaizka Mendieta then edged the Spaniards in front with a goal in first-half injury time.
Only eight minutes into the second stanza, Lucas Radebe levelled the scores. Raul, however, restored Spain's lead three minutes later, and that's how it ended: South Africa 2, Spain 3.
Strangely enough, two of South Africa's most memorable matches ever – against Spain in the World Cup and against Brazil in the Nelson Mandela Challenge – both ended in 3-2 defeats.
At the same time as Bafana Bafana and Spain were doing battle, Slovenia and Paraguay were in action.
The Slovenians took a 1-0 lead into the break, which meant South Africa would qualify for the next round regardless of whether or not they lost to Spain. Paraguay, however, came roaring back in the second half, netting three times to win 3-1.
The South Americans' third goal, scored in the 84th minute, was enough to see them progress at South Africa's expense, but it was by the narrowest of margins.
Paraguay edged out Bafana on goals scored after both had picked up the same number of points and had the same goal difference of zero. Paraguay, though, had scored and conceded six goals to SA's five and five.
African Nations Cup slide
In the same year, South Africa's African Nations Cup slide continued in the finals held in Mali.
Bafana Bafana qualified at the top of Group B, albeit with a record of only one win and two draws. They opened with a 0-0 draw against Burkina Faso, and followed that up with another goalless draw against Ghana. A 3-1 victory over Morocco, however, was enough to open a path to the quarterfinals. There, Bafana Bafana met the hosts and were beaten 2-0.
In 2003, the national side managed a record of only six wins, a draw and four losses. Worryingly, losses began to come against teams that South Africa needed to beat to maintain a strong Fifa world ranking – countries like Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Egypt.
The decline was made clear for all to see at the 2004 African Nations Cup. Despite opening with a 2-0 win over Benin, Bafana Bafana failed to progress beyond the group stages. They were humbled 4-0 by Nigeria in their next match, and then drew 1-1 with Morocco.
A 2-0 loss to minnows Mauritius in a warm-up for the continental championship should have served as sufficient warning that South Africa was in trouble.
Successful World Cup bid
In May 2004, the mood of South African football fans was considerably brightened, however, when the country won the right to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup – the first African country to be awarded the honour.
Later that year, in November, the Nigerian bogey was finally ended when Bafana Bafana beat the Super Eagles 2-1 in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Despite a decent showing as an invited team to the Concacaf Gold Cup, in which they drew three matches and beat Mexico 2-1, 2005 was not a good year for South Africa. They scraped wins over lightly regarded teams early in the year, but ended it with four losses and a draw in their last five matches.
Disaster in Egypt
Although they qualified for the 2006 African Nations Cup in Egypt, the tournament proved to be a disaster for South Africa. They lost all three matches they played and failed to score a single goal as they crashed out of the tournament as the bottom team in their group.
With four years remaining until 2010 and the national team in disarray - and down to 72nd in Fifa's world rankings - a decision was made to acquire a big-name coach to prepare Bafana for the World Cup. Carlos Alberto Parreira, who had coached Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Saudi Arabia in previous World Cup finals, took up the post.
Parreira achieved his first goal of earning qualification for the 2008 Nations Cup in Ghana, but South Africa once again bowed out in the first round.
They finished bottom of Group D after two draws and one loss, which was, at least, an improvement over their previous campaign. Bafana drew 1-1 with Angola, then lost 3-1 to Tunisia, before finishing with a 1-1 draw against Senegal.
After that, South Africa appeared to be making progress under Parreira, and a stylish 3-0 victory over Paraguay in March 2008 was cause for optimism. The following month, however, in a huge shock, Parreira resigned his position to be with his wife, who had recently undergone surgery for cancer.
His replacement was another Brazilian, recommended by Parreira: Joel Santana, who brought with him an excellent record in Brazilian club football, but no international experience.
In at the deep end Santana was thrown in at the deep end, taking over just before a series of African Nations Cup qualifiers. He didn't know the players and he didn't have time to work with them; South Africa failed to qualify for the 2010 African Nations Cup in Angola.
Signs soon emerged that Santana was making a difference when SA scored a national record five consecutive wins in succession – over Zambia, Cameroon, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, and Malawi.
However, disappointing losses to Chile and Portugal in early 2009, either side of a last-gasp win over Norway, suggest that Santana and his side still have some ground to make up if they are to progress beyond the group stages of the 2010 World Cup.
How they shape up against the reigning Fifa world and continental champions at the 2009 Confederations Cup that kicks off in South Africa on 14 June will give Bafana fans the clearest indication yet of how much they dare hope when the biggest event in football kicks off in June 2010.
By Brad Morgan