South Africa was the first host nation to compete in qualifying despite receiving an automatic spot in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ because the competition also served as the preliminary stage for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Memories of that campaign will give Bafana Bafana fans no warm feelings as the team failed to beat Nigeria or Sierra Leone in four tries and were eliminated before the final group stage. Missing out on the continental finals meant a missed chance for experience that some said might have benefited them mightily in the summer of 2010. Before missing out on Germany 2006 by finishing behind Ghana in qualifying, South Africa had reached two finals on the trot.
FIFA World Cup finals history
No matter that they became the first host country to fail to advance from the group stage of a FIFA World Cup, a dramatic opening draw against Mexico along with a closing win over France did enough to leave the nation upbeat after South Africa 2010. In between those results, Bafana were exposed by eventual semi-finalists Uruguay in their only true setback, but they missed escaping a tough group only on goal difference. At their World Cup debut in 1998, they opened with a lopsided defeat to France and went home after two draws left them third in the group. Four years later, it was only the goals-scored tiebreaker that sent Paraguay out of the group at Bafana's expense.
The current crop
Full of pace and energy and with a knack for the dramatic, Bafana Bafana are no soft touch on the continent or beyond. Former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was instrumental in expanding the base of high-level players that could be called on for national team duty, and that has made the side more consistent as well. Still key to the side’s fortunes is Steven Pienaar, who has been a fixture in the national team since the early 2000s.
The key players
That the team managed well at South Africa 2010 despite a sluggish performance by Pienaar should give confidence to a new generation of Bafana youngsters. The likes of Katlego Mphela, Bernard Parker and Davide Somma promise fireworks for years to come in attack.
Coach: Gordon Igesund
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 (fourth place)
Former stars: Mark Fish, Benni McCarthy, Lucas Radebe