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Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Monday, 31 May 2010 10:41 UK

World Cup 2010: Aaron Mokoena poised to win 100th cap

By Piers Edwards
BBC Sport, Johannesburg

South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena
Mokoena made his debut as a teenager back in 1999

Captain Aaron Mokoena is set to become South Africa's first centurion on Monday when the World Cup hosts entertain Guatemala.

The centre-back made his international debut in 1999 against Botswana and won his 99th cap in Thursday's 2-1 friendly win over Colombia.

And as Bafana Bafana finalise their World Cup preparations, the 29-year-old is expected to take to the field in Polokwane on Monday evening.

"I'm extremely happy about the achievement, as it's a milestone," Mokoena told the BBC's African sports programme, Fast Track.

"I always love representing my country, which has been a dream come true, and these are the things I've always wanted to achieve as a footballer.

"I'm delighted to be able to become the first man to achieve it."

South African coach Jomo Sono
Coach Jomo Sono introduced Mokoena to the international game

Despite his impressive haul of caps, Mokoena has faced recent criticism from certain fans who feel his place is unjustified following some uncertain displays.

But coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who values the Portsmouth man's experience extremely highly, is full of praise for his skipper.

"Winning 100 caps is no fluke," says the Brazilian.

"Aaron is one of those special breed of players who are committed, dedicated and have great character.

"He is an exceptional leader and will be a huge asset to Bafana in the World Cup - this is a well-deserved honour for a superb international player."

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"Critics are always there but I've also had incredible support from loads of people," says Mokoena, whose solitary international goal came against Zambia in 2006.

The Johannesburg-born defender says he will dedicate his achievement to both his mother and former Bafana Bafana coach Jomo Sono, who introduced him to the international game.

Sono included the teenager in the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations squad, even though Mokoena did not get a chance to win his first cap.

It was Trott Moloto who handed Mokoena his debut a year later and eleven years on, South Africa's youngest ever international will lead out the World Cup host nation in his home city.

"The atmosphere against Colombia in Soccer City was absolutely incredible and a great experience before we kick off there on 11 June," he says.

"The stadium was electrified and that's what we need - we know we have a mountain to climb but we have what it takes to do well."

Set to join players such as Hossam Hassan, Ahmed Hassan (both Egypt) and Rigobert Song (Cameroon) as African centurions, Mokoena dedicates his feat to 'desire, commitment, hard work, discipline and talent'.

Aaron is one of those special breed of players who are committed, dedicated and have great character

South Africa coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira

His 99 caps are 20 more than the next best player, Benni McCarthy, who is desperate for another run-out after playing just 137 minutes of football since February.

"I would love to get on the pitch again," says South Africa's record scorer, who returned to the national team after a seven-month absence on Thursday.

"I want to get a few goals so that the confidence and experience comes back."

Ranked 114th in the world, Guatemala could provide the perfect opponents for McCarthy to score his first goal this year - as the new 45,000-seater Peter Mokaba Stadium hosts its first international.

On Saturday, Parreira has one final chance to fine-tune his side as they host fellow finalists Denmark in Atteridgeville.

Bafana Bafana start the first World Cup on African soil on 11 June when hosting Mexico at the 94,700-capacity Soccer City, before meeting Uruguay and France in Group A.



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see also
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010
South Africa extend unbeaten run
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
South Africa draw with Bulgaria
24 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
McCarthy dropped by South Africa
01 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
South Africa climb seven places
26 May 10 |  African
Mokoena says SA can win World Cup
09 May 10 |  African


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