Same old story: SA qualify, and then what?

Getting beyond the opening stage means having players who are Cup-prepared

24 February 2019 - 06:16 By SAZI HADEBE

In 1997 Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet were in the French side which featured at the Fifa Under 20 World Cup in Malaysia.
Also participating in that tournament was SA's Amajita, who were coached by Shakes Mashaba in the country's first taste of a World Cup at any level of international football.
Henry and Trezeguet, who would go on to have impeccable club and international careers, were both on the scoresheet (Trezeguet with two) when they defeated Amajita 4-2 in the last match of Group B.
That Amajita defeat was to signal the start of SA's terrible record in eight football World Cups and four Olympic tournaments in which only Amajita's 2009 team advanced to the second round, albeit as one of the six best third-placed finishing teams in group matches.
By contrast, it didn't take Henry and Trezeguet more than a year to fully introduce themselves to the world stage, with Henry scoring one of the goals in Les Bleus's 3-0 win over Bafana Bafana in the opening match of a World Cup that the French team went on to win on home soil in 1998.
The duo's story in that World Cup was not to end there as Henry got a brace in the 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia while Trezeguet scored his first goal in that tournament.
In the Bafana team coached by French- born mentor Philippe Troussier, only Benni McCarthy was promoted from the Amajita team which finished third in their group in the under 20 tournament in 1997.
Welcoming the Amajita team which was unconvincing in the Afcon Under 20 tournament in Niger last week, Safa president Danny Jordaan boasted of his association's feat that saw them qualify for three World Cups between 2018 and 2019.
Jordaan waxed lyrical about SA's under-17 women's team performance in last year's World Cup in Uruguay, Banyana Banyana qualifying for this year's women's World Cup in France and Amajita booking their tickets to Poland with their third-place finish in Niger last week.
A question was posed to Jordaan on what it would take for SA teams to do well in these World Cups, and whether Amajita would deliver anything different in Poland.
"We have to look at the Fifa technical reports that are produced after each and every World Cup. That's what our coach Thabo Senong has to do," said Jordaan.
But the question is: Do we have teams good enough to arrest the first-round exits that we have come to associate with our teams?
Jordaan thinks we certainly have. "Yes we have quality players and we have to look at the ones we have in Europe. On our side as the association, we are committed to putting a gruelling preparation programme for all our teams going to the World Cups.
"Soon after the draw on Sunday (today) Senong has to come with a plan that will help prepare the team well and we will support it. We expect both Banyana and Amajita to go to the second round in their respective World Cups this year."
Senong was equally cagey about Amajita's prospects in Poland, admitting that SA still has a long way to go in producing world beaters in international tournaments.
"It starts with clubs," was Senong's first response when asked what South African expectations of Amajita should be.
"For us (to properly develop) our clubs must play international tournaments. Our clubs must send their under-19s and their academies to play abroad.
"If we do that players will develop emotionally and mentally and even tactically and it will be easy for our junior national teams to perform at World Cups."
Senong's team statistics on what they did in Niger doesn't inspire confidence.
In five matches Amajita scored only two goals in open play, one of them being a face- saving Luke le Roux penalty in the 1-0 victory over Burundi - a match that clinched their spot in the World Cup.
Senong, who should know having also taken the 2017 team to the World Cup, points to player development and coaches at PSL not being keen to play young players.
"The nations that we will be facing at the World Cup are full of young players that are used to playing in a Uefa youth champions league, they are used to playing in other countries. That is what we are lacking."
Senong's got a point if you understand why in 1998 France were not afraid to throw in Henry and Trezeguet. Right now France has Kylian Mbappe, who at 20 is already a world superstar, having starred in the Les Bleus team that won the World Cup in Russia last year.
"It's difficult to tell how far we will go (in Poland) but I can say this team must not be undermined. It's full of a special group of players capable of surprising people."
Holding our breath will be difficult given our experience of the past 22 years. But a good surprise is what South Africans have long been yearning for.
The records of all SA football teams, men and women, who have played in World Cups and Olympic tournaments.
Qualified eight times for World Cup and only one team (Under 20, 2009) has ever made it to the second round.
Qualified four times for Olympics (twice for men and twice for women) but no team has ever made it to the second round.
1998 - France
France 3 SA 0
SA 1 Denmark 1
SA 2 Saudi Arabia 2
First round exit
2002 - Korea/Japan
Paraguay 2 SA 2
SA 1 Slovenia 0
SA 2 Spain 3
First round exit
2010 - hosts
SA 1 Mexico 1
Uruguay 3 SA 0
France 1 SA 2
First round exit
2000 - Greece
SA 1 Japan 2
Brazil 1 SA 3
Slovakia 2 SA 1
First round exit
2016 - Brazil
Brazil 0 SA 0
Denmark 1 SA 0
SA 1 Iraq 1
First round exit
1997 - Malaysia
SA 0 South Korea 0
SA 0 Brazil 0
SA 2 France 4
First round exit
2009 - Egypt
UAE 2 SA 2
Hungary 4 SA 0
SA 2 Honduras 0
Finished third but qualified for the 2nd round as one of the 6 best third finishing teams. KO by Ghana in the second round
2017 - South Korea
SA 1 Japan 2
SA 0 Italy 2
Uruguay 0 SA 0
First round exit
2019 - Poland - To be played
2015 - Chile
SA 1 Costa Rica 2
Russia 2 SA 0
SA 1 North Korea 1
First round exit
Banyana Banyana at Olympics
2012 - London
Sweden 4 SA 1
Canada 3 SA 0
Japan 0 SA 0
First round exit
2016 - Brazil
Sweden 1 SA 0
SA 0 China 2
Brazil 0 SA 0
First round exit
2019 World Cup - To be played
2018 - Uruguay
Mexico 0 SA 0
Japan 6 SA 0
SA 1 Brazil 4
First round exit..

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