As the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ hosts prepare for their most daunting task yet in international football, most of the responsibility to mould the side and deliver them to the ‘Promised Land’ lies in the hands of experienced journeyman and FIFA World Cup-winning coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira. Now in his second stint as Bafana Bafana head coach, Parreira’s return was greeted with mixed feelings in South Africa. Although the Brazilian’s many supporters are adamant that he is the man to right the wrongs of the team ahead of the world’s greatest showpiece, he was re-hired following a spate of inauspicious results under then-coach, Joel Santana, who led the team to eight defeats on the trot. Immediately after Parreira’s arrival, he focused on reviving the morale and insisted on boosting the flagging confidence amongst his charges. And his arrival has seemingly breathed life back into the hosts.
Parreira certainly has the pedigree to inspire. He led his native country to the beautiful game’s ultimate prize at the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA. The extensively-travelled coach also brings a wide-range of experience, which should prove vital in revitalising a South African side struggling with some complicated pre-tournament issues. However, Parreira will be hoping to avoid the difficulties he endured during an inauspicious first spell as head coach, which witnessed him fail to lead South Africa beyond the first round at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. While some have been quick to dismiss South Africa’s chances at the World Cup, Parreira has reminded the sceptics about Bafana’s gallant showing at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. Even though he was not at the helm then, Parreira can claim it was he who did the spadework for his compatriot, Santana.
South Africa 2010 will be sixth FIFA World Cup as a coach, and Bafana will be the fifth team he’s led at the finals - breaking the record of four he’s held jointly with Bora Milutinovic. Parreira led Brazil to the USA 94 title after a penalty shootout in the Final0, but he failed to get the Seleção past the quarter-finals at Germany 2006, where they lost to eventual finalists France. His first FIFA World Cup came back at Spain 82, when he led Kuwait to a point. United Arab Emirates in 1990 followed, as did a stint with Saudi Arabia at France 98. Parreira has dubbed this World Cup as “Mount Everest” for his side, but he has vowed to mount a strong challenge and lead Bafana Bafana beyond the group stages. From there, as he famously told reporters, “anything is possible.”