Africa: High Hopes - For Some - As Soccer Awaits World Cup Draw

South Africa and Mexico will open the 2010 Fifa World Cup at Soccer City, Johannesburg, next June.
3 December 2009

Cape Town — Of the six African nations at the 2010 World Cup, by far the most pressure will be on hosts South Africa, with the world watching to see not only if the country can host the tournament but whether its national team can get out of the group stages of the competition.

No host country has ever failed to reach the second round of the World Cup and there will be plenty of mirth, not just in Africa but around the world, should Bafana Bafana make this unwanted piece of history, especially as they are one of the seeded teams in their group.

What is going for them, however, is that they have a coach in Carlos Alberto Parreira who has seen it all before, and will not bow to pressure, even though he admits it is there, all around the players and technical team.

"The pressure is big but we are not afraid," Parreira says. "We have to focus on the good things we have in our team. At the Confederations Cup they (Bafana) were in good shape, good mood and motivated, and as a result did well.

"We don't want to be the first team ever to host a World Cup and not go through to the next round. I believe that not with words but with work we can go through to the next round.

"Home advantage can be very important if you are well prepared and I believe it is going to be scary for any team that faces us in the opening frame. There will be 90,000 problems all on your side. The vuvuzelas will also be a big help. We have to use this.

"The mission and vision is clear. It is to take Bafana Bafana as far as we can in this competition. Whenever I walk in the streets I don't feel the pressure but I get the encouragement from the people. They say to me, 'coach make us proud,'" the 66-year-old Brazilian said.

Many of the world's football followers are expecting great things from Côte d'Ivoire, with their array of stars, spearheaded by striker Didier Drogba. There has been talk that The Elephants could even be the first African side to win the coveted trophy.

"It is going to be a challenge. To make it to the final will not be easy because there are great teams like Brazil and Germany, who have won the World Cup for many years," Drogba told FIFA.com.

"Every team is competitive and it will be a challenge if we play teams like Brazil or Argentina. At the last World Cup we played really well in Germany, but we were unlucky because we were in a very tough group with Argentina and Holland and so went out in the first round.

"But I think with this kind of experience, it will be possible at South Africa 2010 to do much better. Perhaps we can make the quarter-finals and then semi-finals, this is something we can achieve."

Drogba says that whatever happens, it is important that Africa shows the world what it is capable of, both on and off the field.

"My team-mates and I want to make history and want to change the way the world sees African football. I hope that we'll be the team that is going to go to the final and win the competition.

"But let's do everything to show people a different Africa. I was in South Africa for the FIFA Confederations Cup in June and everything was perfect. The stadiums are good and the people in South Africa are very friendly.

"The organisation was superb. And in the stadiums, even if it's a bit chilly, you very quickly forget the winter coolness. The atmosphere is magnificent, people sing together and they're happy and welcoming."

Just who these teams will play and how tough their progression through the tournament will be revealed at the World Cup Draw in Cape Town on Friday evening, South African time. Africa is waiting with bated breath.

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