Bafana target 2010 quarters
Aiming for the quarters (File)
Johannesburg - New coach Carlos Alberto Parreira says struggling 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa can defy the odds and reach the quarter-finals.
"The greatest challenge is getting to the second phase. South Africa must work hard but I'm confident we will get there," he told Brazilian television ahead of a second spell in charge of Bafana Bafana.
"I hope that with the backing of home fans we will reach the quarter-finals and after that the sky is the limit," said the 66-year-old, who guided Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title.
"The World Cup is kill, kill, kill, and it is not always the best teams that reach the final. It is different from a championship and I think we could have a very competitive team."
Brave words from a man inheriting a national team ranked 85 in the world by FIFA and demoralised after eight losses in nine matches with the sole success coming at home against African lightweights Madagascar.
The defeats were inflicted by Spain (twice), Brazil and Serbia at home and away to Germany, Republic of Ireland, Norway and Iceland and cost another Brazilian, Joel Santana, his 200 000-dollar-a-month coaching post.
Parreira ended his first spell as a moderately successful coach of South Africa in mid-2008 to be with his ill wife in Rio de Janeiro and reportedly recommended Santana to take over despite no national team experience.
Toward the end of his reign Santana axed striker Benni McCarthy from English Premiership club Blackburn Rovers after he shunned a call-up for friendlies against Norway and Portugal.
Parreira has decided to give McCarthy, scorer of a record 31 goals for Bafana Bafana since his 1997 debut, another chance by naming him in a 24-man squad for home friendlies against Japan and Jamaica this month.
"I think Benni is the best South African striker and if he is willing to play, make sacrifices and commit himself to the team, he deserves an opportunity," insisted Parreira.
South Africa, who qualified for the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 without progressing beyond the first round, hope to stage training camps at home and in Brazil and Germany before the June 11 to July 11 tournament.
"Training in Brazil will be a valuable experience, but we need an agreement with the coaches of the players' clubs because the planned dates are not on the FIFA calendar and the teams are not obliged to release them.
"For the camps to be successful we need at least 70 percent of the main team present," warned the Brazilian who also coached Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia at World Cup finals.
South Africa complete their 2009 friendly schedule with fixtures against Japan on November 14 in Port Elizabeth and Jamaica three days later in Bloemfontein.