The Host Country
In 1992 and 1993 the national team participated in the World Cup elimination round for Africa, but it lost to Nigeria. Subsequently, SA made its World Cup debut at the XVI FIFA World Cup in Paris in the late 1990s. It all started when in August 1997, South Africa beat Congo, 1-0, and advanced to the 1998 World Cup. In the first round, it finished third in its group, behind France (host country) and Denmark. The squad lost to France, later world champ, 0-3. Then, it tied with Denmark (1-1) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2-2). The men’s soccer team, under the leadership of Clive Barker, finished 24th, ahead of Scotland, Bulgaria, South Korea, Japan and the United States of America.
Country Profile: South Africa
SA lies in southern Africa and surrounded by Namibia, Zimbabwe (known as Rhodesia until 1980), and Botswana to the north, by Mozambique and the Kingdom of Swaziland to the east, by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. On the other side, the tiny country of Lesotho is located within South Africa.
The Republic of South Africa covers an area of 471,009 square miles. Unlike several nations in the world, it holds three capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative), and Bloemfontein (judicial). SA has a population of approximately 49 million. Politically, the nation is a constitutional democracy.
On the economic side, it has one of the most important mineral resources on Earth. Since the 1960s, SA is the world’s biggest producer of gold. As a result, it is sub-Saharan Africa’s most-developed country. In recent years, the nation has hosted many world-class events, including the Pan African Games.
World Cup Tradition
Soccer is one of the country’s most popular sports. By 1996, the South African squad upset Tunisia and won the African Cup of Nations. At the beginning, SA, host country, was a heavy favorite in the event. They won the event by scoring 11 goals, with only 3 scored against them. The next year, the nation qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and finished 18th. Later, it was runner-up at the African Tournament in 1998, ranked behind Egypt. That year SA also competed at the 1998 World Cup. Four years on, they placed 17th in the global tournament in South Korea and Japan, outpacing Portugal, Russia and France. In the first round, the national squad dramatically lost to Spain (3-2). However, the South African squad beat Slovenia (1-0) and tied with Paraguay (2-2).
The 2009 FIFA Confederation Cup was scheduled for South Africa. Before a crowd of 40,000 at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, the host country lost to Spain 3-2 (and finished fourth). During the preliminary round, they had defeated New Zealand ( winners of the 2008 Oceania Football Confederation) and tied with Iraq (winners of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup). That year, the national team came in 15th place in the FIFA U-20 World Championship in Egypt.
During the 2010 World Cup, the host country placed 20th, among 32 international teams. In the first round, the South African side beat France, former World Champion, 2-1.
In an effort to improve its game, SA is working hard with Carlos Alberto Parreira, one of the world’s best coaches. In the past, SA had worked with several foreign coaches: Theodore Dimitru (Romania), Philippe Troussier (France), and Carlos Queiroz (Mozambique), as well as Joel Santana (Brazil) and Stuart Baxter (United Kingdom).