28 February 2014
Bafana Bafana will have a chance to upset the World Cup hosts when they meet at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium next Wednesday. South Africa has failed to beat Brazil in four previous outings, but all those matches have been closely contested, with the five-time world champions winning by one goal each time.
The first ever clash between the teams was a humdinger and remains one of the most memorable games in Bafana Bafana’s relatively short history.
It took place in Johannesburg in April 1996. At the time, South Africa were champions of Africa and Brazil the world champions. The occasion was the Nelson Mandela Challenge.
The Brazilian line-up included some World Cup winners, as well as members of the Brazilian Olympic team, who were using the match as a warm-up ahead of the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Their team featured midfielder Rivaldo, who would go on to be crowned the Fifa World Player of the Year and European Footballer of the Year in 1999.
Up front, there was Bebeto, whose celebration after scoring against The Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup, imitated the rocking of a baby, following the birth of a son, became one of the most famous images of that World Cup.
At the back was Aldair, whose number six jersey was retired by Italian Serie A side Roma in 2006, and behind him, looking after the goalkeeping duties, was Dida.
South African team
South Africa was captained by Neil Tovey, who partnered the excellent Lucas Radebe in the central defence.
The midfield featured “Doctor” Khumalo, a man who could match any Brazilian flair, while the strikers included Phil “Chippa” Masinga, whose goal against Congo in 1997 would put Bafana Bafana into the 1998 World Cup, and Shaun Bartlett, who would go on to become South Africa’s all-time leading goal scorer – before his 28 goals was eventually passed by Benni McCarthy.
A crowd-pleasing thriller played out as Bafana Bafana took the game to Brazil. They were rewarded with a 25th minute goal from Masinga and Khumalo then made it 2-0 to the home team at the break.
Brazil pulled one back through Flavio in the 56th minute and it was 2-2 twelve minutes later when Rivaldo found the back of the net.
Just four minutes remained in the contest when Bebeto found a winner for the World Cup holders.
In December 1997, the teams again met in Johannesburg. Romario and Bebeto, the Brazilians’ famed striking partnership, both netted for Mario Zagallo’s team, while Helman Mkhelele replied for South Africa.
Almost 12 years later, the two countries did battle again, this time in the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup. Their semi-final showdown was a cracker.
Bafana Bafana threw themselves about the field, making life difficult for the favoured Brazilians, who could not find a way past Itumeleng Khune in the South African goal. The 48 000-strong crowd’s voice grew in intensity the longer the game lasted as they began to believe that their team could defeat the multiple world champions.
However, the stalemate was finally broken only two minutes from time when substitute Dani Alves struck a superb free kick past Khune to decide a pulsating clash. Brazil went on to win the Confederations Cup.
Most recent match
In their most recent match, South Africa faced Brazil in Brazil for the first time in September 2012. It was Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund’s first game in charge and the challenge could hardly have been tougher. Many expected a Brazilian romp, but it proved to be anything but that.
Goalkeeper Khune was again in excellent form, denying the hosts until he was finally beaten only 15 minutes from time by Hulk as South Africa showed impressive grittiness.
Now the teams meet again on 5 March in Johannesburg. Will there be only a single goal between them again, or will South Africa finally get one over the World Cup hosts?
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United)
Defenders: Thabo Nthete (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bongani Khumalo (Doncaster Rovers), Buhle Mkhwanazi (Pretoria University), Siyanda Xulu (FC Rostov), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk), Thato Mokeke (Ajax Cape Town) and Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), Daylon Claasen (Lech Poznan), Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam), Andile Jali (KV Oostende), Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates), Ayanda Patosi (Lokeren), Lindokuhle Mbatha (Platinum Stars), Bongani Zungu (Mamelodi Sundowns) and Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Strikers: Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Tokelo Rantie (Bournemouth) and Dino Ndlovu (SuperSport United)
Goalkeepers: Cesar (Queens Park Rangers), Jefferson (Botafogo)
Defenders: David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Thiago Silva (Paris St-Germain), Alves (Barcelona), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Rafinha (Bayern Munich)
Midfielders: Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Ramires (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea)
Strikers: Hulk (Zenit), Bernard (Shaktar Donetsk), Willian (Chelsea), Neymar (Barcelona), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Fred (Fluminense)