Steven Piennar’s claim that South Africa will qualify for the quarter-finals may have raised a few eyebrows, but the midfielder’s optimism was vindicated last night as the hosts extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches with a 2-1 win over Colombia.
Goals from Teko Modise and Katlego Mphela cancelled out Giovanni Moreno’s equaliser, and gave the 75,000 fans at Soccer City plenty of reasons to cheer.
The match was the first international to be staged at the giant Johannesburg stadium, and buoyed by this partisan support, Bafana Bafana look set to progress from Group A.
The hosts’ run could also extend beyond the second round, and they are well priced at 8/1 to be eliminated in the last eight.
Group E candidates Denmark, meanwhile, brushed Senegal aside 2-0 to ensure that they leave for South Africa today in good form. Victory proved costly, however, as key central defender Simon Kjaer was stretchered off in the second half.
The Palermo player, who is seen as Danish football’s brightest young talent, would be a huge loss and could dent the team’s hopes of topping their group, an outcome temptingly priced at 9/2.
Honduras were saved by the aptly named Georgie Welcome, whose equaliser saved their blushes against Belarus. It was the first draw in 20 matches for the Hondurans, who face an uphill task in trying to qualify from Group H.
Their group rivals Chile had no such difficulty as they cruised past Zambia 3-0, and the South Americans, who scored 32 goals in qualifying, look likely to join Spain in the round of 16.
South Africa, who conclude their preparations against Guatemala on Monday and Denmark the following Saturday, will hope that the momentum gathered from their unbeaten run will be enough to earn them a win on the opening day of the World Cup.
And at 7/4, the hosts are good value to make home advantage count against Mexico.
How far do you think South Africa can go? They are 4/9 to exit at the group stage. See the full stage of elimination market.