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About South Africa


Bafana Bafana squad for the 2013 Afcon @BackpagePix

Back (L-R) Oupa Manyisa, Thabo Matlaba , May Mahlangu, Thuso Phala, Katlego Mphela, Siboniso Gaxa, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Dean Furman, Tokelo Rantie, Thulani Serero
Middle (L-R) Thabo Nthethe, Anele Ngcongca, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Wayne Sandilands, Itumeleng Khune, Zac van Heerden (Fitness Trainer), Senzo Meyiwa, Siyabonga Sangweni, Lerato Chabangu, Lehlohonolo Majoro
Front (L-R) Serame Letsoaka (Assistant Coach), Tshepo Masilela, Bongani Khumalo (Captain), Gordon Igesund (Head Coach), Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Alex Heredia (Goalkeeper Coach)

FIFA Rank: 84
Coach: Gordon Igesund
Captain: Itumeleng Khune
Nickname: Bafana Bafana
Best AFCON finish: Champions (1996)
AFCON 2012 finish: Did not qualify

AFCON PEDIGREE:

South Africa go into the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with the weight of expectation imposed by their status as hosts. The farcical manner of their failure to qualify for the 2012 edition significantly adds to the pressure.

In fact, Bafana Bafana have many years to make up for, having achieved nothing of note in the intervening period since winning the title on home soil in 1996. They will hope to ride the wave of euphoria and optimism and deliver the title to success-starved, expectant home fans.

The last two tournaments were instantly forgettable for Bafana, who failed to qualify for both. But for some administrative bungling and a game plan for the group decider against Sierra Leone based on a poor grasp of qualifying rules they might have qualified for 2012. With Niger losing to Egypt in their final group match Bafana believed a draw against the Leone stars would be enough to secure their progress. Even though they would finish level on nine points with Niger and Sierra Leone, they assumed that their superior goal difference would hold sway.

A quick review of the rules revealed that the side with a better head-to-head record advanced. It was a chastening discovery for Pitso Mosimane and his boys.

Since the 1996 triumph presided over by the charismatic coach Clive Barker the decline has been progressive. In their next three involvements Bafana finished as runners-up, in third-place and as losing quarter-finalists respectively. Three group stage exits followed as the downward spiral continued.

Can Bafana Bafana invoke the spirit of 1996 at AFCON 2013?

SQUAD OVERVIEW:

The vast majority of the Bafana Bafana players ply their trade in the Premier Soccer League in South Africa, giving coach Gordon Igesund a big boost in terms of monitoring his potential squad members.

However, the likes of Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace) and Bongani Khumalo (PAOK Athens) all play their football abroad, although the coach recently travelled to Europe to hold meetings with the overseas players in question.

A big blow to Igesund's plans was Steven Pienaar decision to retire from international football, with the former Bafana captain opting instead to focus on his club career with Everton.

Igesund was also keen to bring Andrew Surman into the fold, but the Bafana coach’s overtures were snubbed by the Norwich City star who passed up the opportunity to represent the country of his birth.

FULL SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Senzo Meyiwa (Orlando Pirates), Wayne Sandilands (Mamelodi Sundowns)

Defenders: Siboniso Gaxa and Tshepo Masilela (Chiefs), Thabo Matlaba and Siyabonga Sangweni (Pirates), Bongani Khumalo (PAOK/GRE), Anele Ngcongca (Genk/BEL), Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic)

Midfielders: Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala(Chiefs), Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows), Kagiso Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace/ENG), Dean Furman (Oldham/ENG), Max Mahlangu (Helsingborg/SWE), Oupa Manyisa (Pirates), Thuso Phala (Platinum Stars), Thulani Serero (Ajax/NED)

Strikers: Lehlohonolo Majoro and Bernard Parker (Chiefs), Katlego Mphela (Sundowns), Tokelo Rantie (Malmo/SWE).

Player to Watch: Siyabonga Sangweni

Playmaker Siphiwe Tshabalala, arguably one of the hottest talents in the country and Kaizer Chiefs team-mate Bernard Parker, currently joint-top in the PSL Golden Boot race with nine goals in 16 league matches, are genuine contenders. But our pick is Siyabonga Sangweni.

The Orlando Pirates defender was one of the standout performers as the Buccaneers earned an historic double-treble in the PSL last season. The 31-year-old finished that campaign behind Siyabonga Nomvethe in the race for the Player of the Season award. Sangweni is one of South Africa’s most naturally gifted defenders and seems to get better with each match he plays. He is going to be a key player for the hosts.

Rising Star: Tokelo Rantie

Tokelo Rantie's performances while on loan at Orlando Pirates last season had South Africa buzzing with anticipation. The striker netted seven goals in 20 appearances for the Buccaneers who unfortunately were unable to make the deal permanent.

The 22-year-old Stars of Africa Academy forward joined Swedish side Malmo FF in a 17-month loan deal, scoring a hat-trick on his competitive debut for the club. The striker carried that form over to Bafana following his call-up in June last year, and scored the first of his two international goals so far in his very next match.

Sorely Missed: Benni McCarthy

The return of Benni McCarthy to the Bafana Bafana set-up in June following a two-year absence had the nation giddy with anticipation. However, South Africa’s all-time record goal scorer lasted just a few minutes during the friendly against Brazil and has been struggling with a hamstring strain ever since. The injury effectively ruled him out of this year's African showpiece, leaving the goal-scoring burden on Bernard Parker, Katlego Mphela, Tokelo Rantie and Lehlohonolo Majoro.

Ten things you never knew about South Africa

1. The South African national football team is known as Bafana Bafana. This literally translates to ‘The Boys The Boys.’ Interestingly the women’s team is called Banyana Banyana which means The Girls The Girls.

2. South Africa is the second largest exporter of fruit in the world.

3. The world's first ever heart transplant was performed in South Africa, by a South African. Dr Chris Barnard became the first surgeon to perform the operation at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town in 1967.

4. The world's largest diamond, The Cullinan Diamond, was found in South Africa in 1905. It was cut into the Great Star of Africa, the Lesser Star of Africa and 104 other diamonds of nearly flawless color and clarity which now form part of the British crown jewels.

5. The members of British band Kaiser Chiefs are from Leeds where former South African skipper Lucas Radebe used to play. Such is the admiration in which he is held that when forming their band the members chose to name it after Lucas’ former club Kaizer Chiefs.

6. In his playing days Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund was a striker. He played for a number of teams including Durban City, Bush Bucks, AmaZulu, D'Alberton Callies, African Wanderers. He also played in Europe with Austrian sides GAK and Admira Wacker.

7. South Africa has only won the AFCON once. They did it back in 1996 when they were the hosts. It was also the first time that they had ‘qualified’ for the finals.

8. Since his departure from the position of Bafana Bafana coach in 2009 Joel Santana has aleady had a further four jobs in management. He has gone on to enjoy pay-days at Botafogo, Cruzeiro, Bahia and Flamengo.

9. The automated pool cleaner or Kreepy Krauly was a South African invention. It was first made by hydraulics engineer Ferdinand Chauvier in 1974.

10. There are reportedly more than 280000 windmills pumping water on farms across South Africa. This is the second highest in the world, with Australia the only nation to boast more.

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