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Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 12:00 UK

My First World Cup: Matthew Booth

Poster of Matthew Booth
Booth is the poster icon for South Africa in the World Cup

By Ben Sutherland

South Africa defender Matthew Booth has told the BBC there is "enormous pressure" and a "tremendous weight" on Bafana Bafana as they head into the 2010 tournament on home turf.

However, the Mamelodi Sundowns player - who will be making his World Cup debut in the tournament at the age of 33 - insisted that that pressure would be positive for the team, who face Mexico, France and Uruguay in Group A.

And he pointed to the team's warm-up friendly against Thailand, which they won 4-0, as evidence the team was coming together at the right time.

"It's going to be an enormous pressure on our shoulders, a tremendous weight," he told BBC World Service.

"But I think it will be a positive pressure. We've just come back from Nelspruit, against Thailand, where we had a full stadium, and an atmosphere which they generated really threw us forward and took us to new heights in that game.

"We expect the same in the next couple of friendlies. I really feel sorry for the Mexicans on the 11 of June, truly I do."

'Fantastic event'

The 2010 tournament is likely to be the last chance for Booth to appear on the World Cup stage.

He would have been a prime contender for Bafana Bafana's 2002 squad, but an injury sustained in the weeks leading up to the competition ruled him out of the tournament in Japan and South Korea.

BBC My First World Cup team
11 players making their debut on the World Cup stage at South Africa 2010

He expressed sympathy with players who have suffered a similar fate in the run-up to this year's edition, such as Germany captain Michael Ballack, injured in a tackle from Portsmouth's Kevin-Prince Boateng in the FA Cup final.

"It was a terrible challenge on Ballack," Booth said.

"But as pro-footballers, you realise that these things sometimes do happen. You've got to prepare your mind for both disappointment and success.

"Deep down you're keeping that possible scenario at the back of your mind, and preparing yourself for it. But at the same time, you've got to be confident, and not really think about things like that, otherwise you're going to be pulling out of challenges, and that's not something that you want to do."

Booth added that it would "amazing" to be selected in the final squad and have the chance of playing in the World Cup in his home country.

"Should I get the opportunity, it's going to be the cherry on the top for me," he said.

"I'm 33 years old now, so it would be a fantastic event, a dream come true really, for me to play in the World Cup."

And he said he was absolutely sure the tournament could be one of the best in the history of the competition, despite concerns raised in foreign media.

"Obviously the Germans, and first the Americans, have really set a high standard, and obviously we've got a lot to live up to," he explained.

"A lot of foreign press have been criticising crime problems and organisational abilities, but I think it's going to be nice to prove them wrong, and I think that we will."

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see also
McCarthy dropped by South Africa
01 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
South Africa overcome Jamaica
29 Apr 10 |  World Cup 2010
Brazil camp 'vital' for SA
09 Mar 10 |  African
Guide to the teams at South Africa 2010
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010

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