The new Fifa World Rankings are out and they don’t make pretty reading for South Africa. Bafana Bafana are ranked 88th, having fallen seven places following this month’s 1-1 draw with Namibia (a team with a school teacher at left back).
No host nation has ever failed to reach the second round but South Africa have been drawn in the same group as France (ranked 8th), Mexico (17th) and Uruguay (18th).
Some South African fans I speak to have been trying to look on the bright side, pointing out that the USA were predicted to go out in the first round when they held the World Cup in 1994, while little was expected of co-hosts Japan and South Korea in 2002. The USA and Japan both reached the second round; South Korea went all the way to the semi-finals.
But I’ve checked the Fifa rankings and none of those teams were anywhere near as bad as South Africa. Ten weeks before they hosted the World Cup the USA was ranked 21st, Japan was 38th and South Korea was 41st.
Okay, the Fifa rankings are not an exact science (Greece are 11th), but it at least serves to underline the scale of the task that Carlos Alberto Parreira and his men have ahead of them. Parreira has described reaching the second round as “like climbing Mount Everest” and to extend the metaphor a touch too far South Africa have so far struggled to find base camp, let alone start the climb.
I still think they will do it. South Africa performed admirably against Brazil and Spain in last summer’s Confederations Cup and none of their opponents will relish playing in front of tens of thousands of vociferous Bafana fans blowing their vuvuzelas.
South Africa will also benefit from the early end of the local Premier Soccer League season. Parreira has already taken the team on a training camp to Brazil and another is planned for Germany. Let’s hope he turns things around. A successful host nation tends to help the whole tournament.