Cape Town – Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup means that the nation has missed a third consecutive World Cup finals appearance. The last time that it played at the showpiece was in 2010, qualifying automatically as hosts.
Bafana have also not qualified for a World Cup competitively since 2002- 20-years.
Whilst this represents a football disaster, Bafana’s record at World Cups is not downright embarrassing. The national team has actually been competitive at World Cups, missing out on last 16 qualification due to goal difference twice (2002 and 2010).
Today, we look at Bafana Bafana’s records at World Cups.
This was Bafana’s debut at the World Cup. The team was led by Frenchman Philippe Troussier. Many feel that 1996 Afcon winning coach Clive Barker who departed following a poor 1997 Confederations Cup campaign should have led the team.
Bar the opening 3-0 loss against France, Bafana played out to draws against Denmark and Saudi Arabia. Benni McCarthy made history in the 1-1 draw against Denmark by scoring Bafana’s first ever World Cup goal.
Shaun Bartlett scored a brace in the 2-2 draw with Saudi. Bafana finished third in the group with two points while eventual winners France advanced as group winners with Denmark second.
The 2002 South African World Cup team was perhaps the best one to represent the country at a World Cup.
What was impressive is that the team only missed out on advancement to the last 16 on goal difference even though the focus of the players was not totally on the event. The team experienced disaster in the lead up to the event with Carlos Quieroz, the man who qualified the team, resigning at short-notice. He was replaced by Jomo Sono who only had three months to prepare the team.
Bafana opened their 2002 campaign with a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Paraguay and made history in the next game with their first ever World Cup victory- a 1-0 win over Slovenia with Siyabonga Nomvethe scoring the only goal of the game.
Needing only a draw against Spain in their last game to advance to the last 16, Bafana had bad luck. With the game looking destined for a 2-2 draw that would have allowed Sono’s men entry into the last 16, a goalkeeping error from Andre Arendse allowed Spanish football legend Raul to score Spain’s third in the 56th minute, making the score 3-2. The game went on to finish 3-2.
Spain finished as group winners with a 100% win record. Bafana were third, level on points with second placed Paraguay. Both Bafana and Paraguay finished with an equal goal difference (0), however the South Americans qualified by virtue of having scored more goals overall (6) than Bafana’s (5).
Bafana’s performances in the 2010 World Cup is best remembered for Siphiwe Tshabalala scoring one of the greatest opening day goals in history during the 1-1 draw against Mexico and for the nation becoming the first host nation in history to not progress beyond the group stage.
Bar the 3-0 hammering by a Diego Forlan inspired Uruguay in their second game, Bafana’s performances were not disastrous. They bowed out of the tournament with a 2-1 win over a then crisis-laden France team.
In the end, they finished third in the group with four points, level with second placed Mexico. El Tri advanced to the last 16 by virtue of having a superior goal difference (+1) compared to Bafana’s (-2).