Barker optimistic for Bafana
Barker optimistic for Bafana

Posted in News on Dec 01, 2001.

Spain, Paraguay and Slovenia beware. The most successful national coach of South Africa says his country are going to upset the odds and qualify from Group B of the World Cup.

"A fantastic draw," said Clive Barker, the pint-size super-optimist who guided Bafana Bafana (The Boys) to the 1996 African Nations Cup title and the World Cup finals two years later.

The sharp knives that are seldom far below the surface in African football came out before South Africa travelled to France and Barker watched from home while the team lost to the hosts and drew with Denmark and Saudi Arabia.

Barker, who coaches Manning Rangers in the Indian Ocean city of Durban, reacted to the draw in South Korea Saturday by predicting South Africa would reach the knockout stages at the second attempt.

Trott Moloto, assistant to French coach Philippe Troussier at the 1998 finals, believes South Africa will accompany Spain into the last 16 of the quadrennial global football showpiece.

"It is a fair draw. We could have drawn easier opponents, but we could also have drawn much tougher ones. I'm glad we avoided Argentina and France, who are the best national teams."

Neil Tovey, captain of the 1996 Nations Cup team and widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders produced by South Africa, adopted a more cautious approach.

"Spain, Paraguay and Slovenia are tough opponents, but so is every other team at this level. Spain and Paraguay will be particularly difficult to overcome, but neither side is invincible."

Andre Arendse, chief challenger to Hans Vonk for the goalkeeper jersey, labelled the draw "super", saying the group was wide open with Paraguay perhaps the greatest challenge.

Roger de Sa, coach of the national team goalkeepers, was equally upbeat, while accepting that Paraguay, second behind Argentina in the marathon South American qualifying campaign, were a major threat.

"Let's go for it! We have a realistic chance of making the knockout phase. Okay, Spain are full of big names, but they also have a history of not meeting expectations at the World Cup."

Bafana Bafana launch their programme on June 2 against Paraguay, tackle Slovenia on June 8, and four days later confront the superstars of Real Madrid and Barcelona, trading as Spain. All the games will be staged in South Korea.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria were drawn in of the toughest groups for the 2002 spectacle as they came up against Argentina, England and Sweden.

African World Cup debutants Senegal also had a tough draw as they came up against champions France, Uruguay and Denmark.

The African minnows have the honour of playing the opening match against France on May 31 in South Korea.

Cameroon were drawn in Group E against Germany, Saudi Arabia and Ireland while Tunisia, current African leaders in the Caf rankings, were drawn against hosts Japan, Belgium and Russia.


The 'Super Eagles', as the Nigerian soccer team are known, were handed a draw that includes two-time world champions Argentina, and top European sides England and Sweden.

Nigeria will open their World Cup campaign on June 2 in Ibaraki, Japan, against the highly favoured Argentines.

However, both the country's players and officials are hopeful the Eagles can rise to the occasion and qualify for the second round as they have in their previous two outings.

"It's really a very tough group for us," Nigerian international midfielder Garba Lawal, who plays for Dutch side Roda Kerkrade JC, told AFP.

"Argentina, for one, are a well-rounded team with their players featuring for the best teams around the world. They are possibly the best team in the world at the moment.

"England and Sweden, who may not have such big names, are also tough nuts and are highly rated."

He added:"However, I don't believe big names alone play football and it would be better these teams do not underrate us."

Austria-based Benedict Akwuegbu, who scored two goals on the road to Nigeria's qualification for the 2002 World Cup, added that "football is unpredictable but with good preparations and determination, we can still make it to the next round".

Former national team coach Fanny Amun, while describing Nigeria's group as "difficult", said, "Argentina will be the team to beat at the World Cup but the draw just tells us we have a lot of work ahead of us.

"The African Nations Cup in January in Mali is very crucial to our preparations. "We have to assert ourselves at this tournament so that we will go to the World Cup with a good team that also has a future," he said.

"We won't win the World Cup so nobody should put unnecessary pressure on the coach (Shaibu Amodu) or the Nigeria Football Association.

"But if our boys are playing regularly for their clubs in Europe we will do well at the championship."

Sports editor of The Comet newspapers Pius Ayinor predicted that Argentina will win the "Group of Death" but looks forward to the match against England with special interest.

"I have longed for Nigeria to play England again because England make too much noise about their team," he told AFP.

"When the two teams clashed in 1994 at Wembley, it was a friendly and there wasn't a lot at stake. I want to see how we will fare against them now when everything is riding on the match."

Nigeria lost 1-0 to England in the high-profile friendly in November 1994.

Full draw:

Group A:

1. France

2. Senegal

3. Uruguay

4. Denmark

Group B:

1. Spain

2. Slovenia

3. Paraguay

4. South Africa

Group C:

1. Brazil

2. Turkey

3. China

4. Costa Rica

Group D:

1. South Korea

2. Poland

3. USA

4. Portugal

Group E:

1. Germany

2. Saudi Arabia

3. Republic of Ireland

4. Cameroon

Group F:

1. Argentina

2. Nigeria

3. England

4. Sweden

Group G:

1. Italy

2. Ecuador

3. Croatia

4. Mexico

Group H:

1. Japan

2. Belgium

3. Russia

4. Tunisia

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