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Round of 16

17 May 2010

Underdogs South Africa have more than one reason for high hopes

Hosts South Africa believe they are capable of surviving Group A

Underdogs South Africa have more than one reason for high hopes

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There is a strong tradition of host countries performing well at the World Cup. South Africa look likely to continue the trend.

Every country to stage the football World Cup has managed to progress beyond the group phase, including similarly low-ranked teams from Japan in 2002 and USA in 1994, and the thousands of South Africans who will attend their matches will demand no less.

South Africa have more history on their side in the shape of manager Carlos Alberto Parreira. He led an unfancied Brazil to victory at the 1994 tournament and will equal the record for managing teams in the finals when he selects the side to face Mexico.

South Africa have decent form going into the tournament, having not lost in any of their five previous matches. All of these were friendlies, however, and they will face much tougher opposition than the likes of Thailand and Jamaica. A notable draw away to a strong Paraguay side is perhaps the best indicator of their ability.

Indeed, at last year’s Confederations Cup South Africa finished fourth after holding Brazil to a one goal win in the semi-finals and taking Spain to extra time in the third-place play-off match.

Star player Steven Pienaar has completed a career-best season with Everton while South Africa’s most-capped player Aaron Mokoena was key to Portsmouth’s remarkable cup run.

While South Africa’s group appears tough, all three opponents have struggled during qualification. Favourites France needed a controversial extra-time goal in Paris to qualify, Uruguay scraped through by a solitary goal over Costa Rica in their play-off, and Mexico lost to Honduras and El Salvador in their qualification campaign.

Do you agree South Africa will go beyond the group stage? Parreira’s outsiders are 5/1 to top Group A.

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