When South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira admitted his side had "a mountain to climb", he wasn't thinking of his side's three Group A games at altitude. When he was originally appointed in 2007, Parreira was charged with improving a side ranked 69th in the world. Given Bafana Bafana now lie 83rd - behind Panama and Albania - it seems he has not been successful. No World Cup host has ever failed to progress from the first group stage, but there is a genuine fear that South Africa could be the worst home team in the tournament's history.
Parreira has found frustrations everywhere he has looked, with training camps in Brazil and Germany failing to provide quality opposition and the team's World Cup base still in limbo as late as March this year. The hope must be that an enthusiastic local crowd and a backdrop of vuvuzela trumpets can galvanise a team that needs all the help it can get. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.
Aim: To avoid becoming the first host nation to fall at the first group stage.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
Tsholofelo 'Teko' Modise Creative midfielder who has become one of South Africa's star men since his debut in 2007, but has endured a disappointing season for club and country. The Orlando Pirates player marked his 50th cap by captaining Bafana Bafana against Bulgaria in Soweto in May.
Thanduyise Khuboni The Golden Arrows midfielder only made his debut in January, but has quickly emerged as a favourite of Parreira. His first two games ended with man-of-the-match awards and Khuboni started and finished every Bafana match in their recent training camp in Brazil.
Steven Pienaar South Africa's star player, the Everton winger can play on either flank and is the national side's main source of creativity. He was the inaugural winner of the South Africa Player of the Year award in 2009 and has World Cup experience - he was an unused squad member in 2002.
CARLOS ALBERTO PARREIRA will participate in a record sixth World Cup as coach after being named to succeed fellow Brazilian Joel Santana, who had lost eight of his last nine games. It is Parreira's second spell in charge of South Africa, having resigned after 21 matches in April 2008 when his wife fell ill with cancer. Having begun a nomadic coaching career in Ghana, Parreira led Kuwait at the 1982 World Cup and the United Arab Emirates at Italia '90, but his greatest moment came in 1994 when he ended Brazil's 24-year wait for a fourth World Cup title. After coaching Saudi Arabia at the 1998 World Cup, Parreira returned to the Brazil national side ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but a 1-0 quarter-final defeat to France ended his hopes of a second World Cup triumph.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
A World Cup is much more fun when the host nation is doing well. Even to a backdrop of vuvuzela trumpets.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Qualified automatically as hosts
South Africa's World Cup build-up
WORLD CUP BEST
Failed to make it past the group stage on their previous appearances in 1998 and 2002, although in the latter tournament, they recorded a first win (against Slovenia).
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.