By Farayi Mungazi
BBC Sport, Port Said
Bafana Bafana fans have little to cheer about
The evidence is clear - South Africa are a team in sharp decline.
This is a difficult situation for their fans, especially when you consider that not so long ago Bafana Bafana were at their zenith.
They were crowned African champions in 1996, finished runners-up two years later and went out in the semi-finals in 2000.
In 2002, they were knocked out in the quarter-finals and then suffered the humiliation of a first-round exit at the 2004 tournament in Tunisia.
South Africa are clearly a worse side than they used to be and moving away from the top table of African football at lightning speed.
So how will they do at Egypt 2006?
Molefi Oliphant, president of the South African Football Association (Safa), insists it is not all doom and gloom.
"If you look at the players presented here, most of them are new because we're trying to build a team for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2010 World Cup," Oliphant said.
Facing the public's wrath in the wake of South Africa's abject display against Guinea in their opening Group C match of Egypt 2006, which Bafana Bafana lost 2-0, the Safa chief said that there was no need to panic.
Oliphant said: "What we need to appreciate is that the standard of football is high, and we don't have small nations anymore.
"So in my view it's not about South Africa going down or going up, it's about the standard of football on the continent being very competitive.
"I don't want to sound defensive but remember that South Africa was re-admitted into international football in 1991.
"Therefore, we need to understand that in terms of experience, we're babies and we've done well under the circumstances."
Dumitru is an under-pressure coach
Oliphant acknowledged that South Africans are fast running out of patience with their national team but rejected criticism of Ted Dumitru, their Romanian-born coach.
"When we appoint a coach, the coach has our backing. We cannot appoint a person and not support him," added Oliphant.
"Yes, we support him because we appointed him to that position. Critics will always be there but Ted is an expert in his own right.
"If you look at the South African set-up at this point in time, Ted, in fairness to him, is the best in the country."
Oliphant gave a guarded response when asked whether Safa was also supportive of Dumitru's decision to ignore foreign-based players and bring an inexperienced side to the Nations Cup.
"It's unfortunate that this has happened but at the same time, once you appoint a coach, you give a blank cheque for him to select the best possible players.
"Therefore, it's difficult for us to appoint a coach and then dictate to him who to select. But we hope that he selects the best players."