Parreira must prove his worth
Johannesburg - South Africa was so desperate for Carlos Alberto Parreira to lead the historic World Cup campaign that it employed him twice.
Carlos Alberto Parreira (Gallo Images)
Originally recruited in 2007, to the delight of the country's football fans, the 1994 World Cup-winning Brazilian coach belied his impressive reputation and even more impressive wage packet to lead Bafana Bafana to an embarrassing first round exit at the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana.
Soon after, Parreira was forced to resign and return home to look after his ill wife but not before a sudden, resounding 3-0 victory over Paraguay in March 2008 showed his experience and expertise might finally be paying off.
A disappointing spell followed under another Brazilian, Joel Santana, and eight losses in nine games convinced the South African Football Association to chase its experienced former manager for a second time.
This time the fans were less convinced but Parreira returned at the end of 2009 - with barely six months to go until the biggest moment in South African footballing history.
Bafana Bafana's results have been far short of eye-catching since, but Parreira is adamant he can shape the World Cup hosts into a dangerous underdog. He hopes the lowest-ranked team at the 32-nation tournament will be good enough to surprise Group A opponents Mexico, Uruguay and France.
"Of course we respect everybody. We know we would be maybe considered underdogs because of our low ranking," Parreira said.
"But there is not one single guy in the world who can forecast this game. That's the reason why it's the No. 1 sport in the world, because nobody can forecast the result of a football game." Away from South Africa, the 67-year-old coach's resume is extensive, culminating with victory on the highest level at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Parreira has taken charge of his home country on three separate occasions, the latest in 2006, and he has also managed 11 clubs dating back to 1967. He is one of just two men, the other is Bora Milutinovic, to have coached at least four national teams at World Cup tournaments.
His experience of football's biggest occasion runs from the high of winning it with his home nation in 1994 to the low of being fired by Saudi Arabia half way through the group stage in France four years later. He also coached Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates at the World Cup.
"I tell my players you are part of the elite," Parreira said.
"You are going to represent your country and very few athletes in the world have this opportunity, so use it and do the best you can do."
The problem this time, though, is that South Africa's best may not be good enough. Bafana have won just one game in two World Cup appearances, in 1998 and 2002.