The FIFA World Cup is a highly anticipated event that only takes place once every four years. The only other sporting event that even comes close in terms of magnitude is Olympics, and even then you could argue that with the summer and winter games they happen once every two years.
Honestly though, we’re talking a sporting event of paramount importance. Some smaller and poorer countries’ economies can reap the benefits of a good World Cup performance. Some countries (Ghana in the 2006 World Cup is a great example) even shut down operations just so their citizens will have enough power to watch the game. If there’s a sporting event that can bring a whole country to a standstill, then it’s the FIFA World Cup.
With all that in mind, take into consideration that 32 teams have qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. To make the stakes even bigger, the 2010 World Cup will be the first time the event has taken place in the African continent, with South Africa chosen as the representative.
In honor (or should I say, “honour”) of the 2010 World Cup being held in South Africa, I find it appropriate to analyze the host country’s team, and how realistic their shot is to win the World Cup.
South Africa Quick Facts – (according to www.southafrica.info) Population size = 47.9 million. Nation’s Capital = Pretoria. South Africa has 10 official national languages and is the world’s 22nd largest economy by GDP; it’s also the 32nd largest country by land area and 28th largest by population. Some famous South African people are Nelson Mandela (civil rights activist), Ernie Els (PGA Tour golfer), Charlize Theron (Oscar winning actress), Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1984).
South Africa’s FIFA History – FIFA ranking (as of March 2010) according to www.FIFA.com = 88. Highest FIFA ranking = 16 in August 1996. World Cup Titles = 0.
Now, for South Africa’s soccer squad…
Steven Pienaar, Midfield. Pienaar has been an important piece to the EPL’s Everton team. In his previous 13 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, he’s managed two goals, but more importantly, he’s going to be the backbone of the team with star player Benni McCarthy out of commission. Don’t expect Pienaar to score a lot of goals. Instead, expect him to cover just about every position on the field and do it very effectively. If South Africa is going to make it past their group stage, they are going to have to rely heavily on Pienaar.
Siboniso Gaxa, Defense. Defensemen’s stats are rarely impressive, unlike a striker’s stats. Consider it the equivalent to a lead-off hitter in baseball. They’re not going to drive home many runs or hit many out of the park, but they’re a vital part to the team with their on base percentage. Gaxa is much like a leadoff hitter in baseball. His country’s defensive unit hinges on his abilities to play both defense, and spur South Africa’s attacks. As if he needs enough incentive to make his country proud, a very solid tournament from him could see some interest sparked from club teams abroad.
Siyabonga Nomvethe, Striker. Nomvethe has been on South Africa’s squad since 1999, and he competed for his country in the 2002 World Cup. He’s currently ranked 6th in South African history for CAPs. For South Africa to make it through the group stage, he’s going to need to have a stellar World Cup tournament and produce some goals. Because age is working against him (32 years of age at the start of the World Cup), I’m counting on Nomvethe to have a big tournament for his “going away party”.
Aaron Mokoena, Midfield. Mokoena currently plays club ball for EPL side Portsmouth, so he’s accustomed to
seeing a higher level of play than his South African teammates. He’s also the most experienced player in South African history with 99 CAPs (he’ll obviously eclipse the 100 CAPs mark in the World Cup), and because of that experience, he’ll be the backbone of this team. Coming in at a fairly young age of 29 years old, he could see at least one more World Cup. However, you know he’d like to make his 100th CAP a memorable one. Mokoena is South Africa’s number one key player.
I can’t stress enough the fact that they’re at home. You know how in most American sports, “home field advantage” is considered vital? It’s not much different with the World Cup; just imagine that “home field advantage” to be your home country advantage. Sure, that’s not a stat per se, but for this intent we’ll use it.
South Africa has never made it past the group stage in two previous attempts.
South Africa is riding something of a hot streak right now, as they’re unbeaten in their previous five international friendly matches. The game against Denmark on June 5th will be a huge gauge of where the team stands just days before the World Cup.
You know you always love to see the host nation do well in the World Cup, especially when it’s the first time your continent has seen the competition. To add to that, South Africa is considered very much an underdog for the 2010 World Cup. With that said, they’re an underdog for a reason, and the number 88 in the world rankings should tell you something. South Africa will be playing a more inspired tournament than any other team, but I still don’t see it as enough to make it past the group stage. It’s really a shame South Africa drew as tough of a group as they did, and I’m predicting them to finish last in their group behind France, Uruguay, and Mexico.
South Africa’s country facts provided by www.southafrica.info
South Africa’s FIFA history provided by http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43883/profile.html