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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
South African adventure
Celta Vigo striker Benni McCarthy is one of South Africa's most high-profile players
Benni McCarthy was on target in the last World Cup
South Africa's only previous flirtation with the World Cup came four years ago in France.

With several of their squad earning a crust at top European clubs the Bafana Bafana had a realistic chance of making it beyond the group stage.

That would have made them only the third African team, behind Cameroon and Nigeria, to make it to the second round.

Mark Fish, Lucas Radebe, Pierre Issa, Phil Masinga and Benni McCarthy all had experience of playing in some of the strongest Leagues in the world.

Hosts France were firm favourites to win the group.

But with Saudi Arabia and Denmark completing the foursome, South Africa knew they had a chance of sneaking through.

It was not to be however as coach Phillipe Troussier saw them finish third behind his native France and the Danes.

Psychological blow

In their opening match at the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles hosts France eventually proved too strong after Troussier's men had put up a gallant fight.

They trailed by only one goal with 12 minutes to go before Issa put through his own net and Thierry Henry rounded off proceedings moments later.

The margin of that 3-0 defeat would eventually prove a psychological blow.

What would otherwise have been a highly-creditable draw with Denmark in the next game still left them relying on goal difference in the final match of the group stage.

Against Denmark, McCarthy, then with Ajax and now with Celta Vigo, had scored a late equaliser after Allan Nielsen had given the former European Champions an early lead.

Defender Mark Fish plays for English outfit Charlton
Defender Mark Fish plays for English outfit Charlton
But going into the final group matches the Africans needed to make up a goal difference of four.

Shadows

Even with Denmark meeting France and Bafana Bafana to play Saudi Arabia, without a point to their name so far, that seemed unlikely.

If it had not been for Shaun Bartlett the tournament would have ended in embarrassment.

Bartlett, who now plays for Charlton in England, gave his side the lead and also converted a last-minute spot-kick to salvage a point after Saudi Arabia had come from behind to take a 2-1 lead.

It was disappointing to bow out of France with just two points.

This time around though South Africa, sick of living in the shadows of Africa's big two Cameroon and Nigeria, will be looking to at least break into the final 16.

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GROUP B
  P GD PTS
SPAIN 3 +5 9
PARAGUAY 3 0 4
SOUTH AFRICA 3 0 4
SLOVENIA 3 -5 0

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