Bafana, Tshabalala do SA proud
19 November 2010
It's been a good year for Bafana Bafana, and it's ended on a high, with news that South Africa has risen to 50th in football's latest world rankings, and that Siphiwe Tshabalala's blistering opening goal of the 2010 World Cup is among 10 nominees for Fifa's goal of the year.
It's been a long time since South Africa was ranked as high as 50th in the world. To be precise, the last time was in February 2006, four years and nine months ago.
However, by the end of that year Bafana was in 67th place. One has to go back to 2005 for a better finish, and that was just a solitary spot higher, in 49th position.
A good year
Apart from the honour of being the host team of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Bafana Bafana's world ranking improved dramatically during the course of the year.
Before the Fifa World Cup, South Africa occupied 86th place in the Fifa rankings. It was as low at 90th in April. The team has since improved 40 places.
Playing under two coaches during the year, Carlos Alberto Parreira and Pitso Mosimane, only two matches ended in defeat: to semi-finalists Uruguay in the World Cup, and to the USA in the Nelson Mandela Challenge in Cape Town on Wednesday.
There were nine wins, including defeats of Denmark, Colombia, and Ghana – all ranked considerably higher than Bafana at the time – and six draws. During the year, Bafana scored 26 goals and conceded 10
Nine wins. Six draws. Two losses. That is a decent record and one most countries would be satisfied with.
Among the team's victories was a South African record 5-0 hammering of Guatemala. It came only two weeks after a 4-0 thrashing of Thailand.
In fact, South Africa enjoyed an unbeaten run under Carlos Alberto Parreira of 13 matches before the World Cup loss to Uruguay.
Stunning World Cup goal
Tshabalala's stunning World Cup opening goal against Mexico at Soccer City was among the 10 best goals of the year announced by Fifa on Tuesday. The winner will claim the Puskas Award, which is named after the great Hungarian and Real Madrid striker.
Given the context of the game, the opener of the first ever World Cup in Africa, against a highly regarded opponent, the importance and class of Tshabalala's goal should not be under-estimated.
He's up against Turkey's Hamit Altintop, Northern Ireland's Matthew Burrows, Linus Hallenius of Sweden, Argentina's Lionel Messi, Samir Nasri of France, Neymar of Brazil, the Netherlands Arjen Robben and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, and Kumi Yokoyama of Japan for the award.
To vote for Tshabalala, or whomever you feel deserves the award, visit the 10 best goals of the year on Fifa.com.
If you're a football fan, you'll be treated to displays of outstanding individual skill, incredible shots, and brilliant improvisation. Tshabalala's goal is, arguably, the most team-oriented of the lot.
The winner will be announced at the Fifa Ballon d'Or Gala on 10 January 2011.
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