Is the African dream shattered?

A COUNTRY that had been in a party mood for weeks leading up to the World Cup woke up yesterday to the dreaded possibility that their beloved Bafana Bafana could be eliminated from the tournament- the first host to hold such an undesirable record- following their 3-0 mauling by Uruguay on Wednesday night.

Without doubt elimination at the group stages will be a cruel blow for South Africa. As a country  South Africa has undergone some kind of transformation during the World Cup with citizens warming up to visitors of different colours and backgrounds, unlike in the past, a development that has won their national side sympathisers among people who ordinarily would not support Bafana, or anything South African for that matter.

That is why a lot of people joined South Africans in mourning on Wednesday after Diego Forlan and his fellow Uruguayans clobbered Bafana on the hallowed turf of Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria.

Bafana’s internationally-recognised motivational speaker, Robin Banks, did not need to tell Carlos Alberto Parreira’s men that they were playing at Loftus, the home ground of the Bulls, a team that is synonymous with rugby success. The Super 14 champions are invincible at home.

What will send shivers down the spines (literally, perhaps, with temperatures dropping to unbearable levels here) of Bafana supporters is that their team’s destiny is no longer quite in their hands.
The result between France and Mexico in the other Group A match played yesterday is already known as you read this, but with just a point from two matches, South Africa are definitely not on top of the situation.

It’s not just South Africa, of the African teams, who are facing an early exit.
Nigeria were the first to taste defeat when Lionel Messi and Argentina handed them a 1-0 defeat in Group B on Saturday. While it could be argued that the once respected Super Eagles started off their campaign against their toughest pool opponent, one of the tournament favourites for that, Greece (who they played last night) and South Korea are not whack either.

Nothing of substance was expected from Algeria in this tournament, to be honest. With all due respect, they did remarkably well to qualify for the World Cup at the expense of continental conquers Egypt, their first qualification in 27 years, but after losing their first match to Slovenia in Group C, England and the US won’t give them much of a chance too.

Ivory Coast were on top in their opener against Portugal in Group G, but both sides were far from convincing. With a bit of precision upfront Ivory Coast would have collected all three points, and they might live to rue the missed opportunity to get off the mark in their first match.

The Ivorians, whose talismanic captain Didier Drogba came in as a substitute after recovering from an injury that almost ruled him out of the World Cup, would certainly have loved to face Brazil on Sunday at Soccer City with a win against the Portuguese in the bag.

Now, the real danger is that the team that can get a result against Brazil and scores more goals against North Korea could be in a good position at the end of the group stages.

The Elephants did not perform sufficiently enough against the Portuguese to suggest they can threaten Brazil, despite the Samba Boys themselves labouring to a 2-1 win over North Korea.
And then there is Cameroon, oh good old Cameroon!

For an African side that was the first to take on the world’s top sides at their pomp at the World Cup, the not-so-Indomitable Lions have become a pale shadow of themselves.
Their decline in recent years is well-documented, but going down 1-0 to a Japan side ranked 26 positions below them did not go down well with their supporters.

In all this, the knight in shining armour has been Ghana, the only African team with a win from the first set of matches.
Their 1-0 win over Serbia on Sunday after striker Asamoah Gyan converted from the penalty spot five minutes from time was generally a well-deserved result in a workmanlike performance.

They play tomorrow in Rustenburg against an Australian team that is smarting from a 4-0 routing by a fearsome Germany on Sunday.
The Black Stars should take full advantage and seal qualification with a second successful win. They will definitely not want it to come down to their last Group D match against the Germans.
C’mon, Stars!

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