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South Africa still polishing its image for 2010

By Gregory Mthembu-Salter in Bloemfontein
Posted on Monday, 27 July 2009 00:00

Holding the Confederations Cup in June was a good practice run for the 2010 World Cup.

South Africa still polishing its image for 2010Eight points out of a possible ten were awarded by the international football federation, FIFA, to South Africa for its Confederations Cup effort in June. This was very good news for the country as it prepares to host the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Most of the necessary infrastructure for the games is already in place. The main weaknesses are public transport, accommodation in the smaller towns – Bloemfontein was particularly bad – and poorly-briefed public and private security officials, who were unable to inform clueless visiting fans about where they were or where they were supposed to be going. Local airports struggled to cope with crowds 10% of the size of those expected in 2010.

The local organising committee was at least able to show that South Africa’s stadiums are excellent. A Brazilian journalist following the games said that his country, which will host the 2014 World Cup, has none like them and would have to build eight or nine new ones.

The main fear of foreign visitors to South Africa is crime, but little was reported during the Confederations Cup. The Egyptian team complained that money was stolen from the players’ hotel rooms after a memorable victory early in the tournament against Italy, but the police claimed later that the culprits were women invited up by the players. The players denied it but, evidently distracted, were thrashed 3-0 by the US in their next game.

On the field, the US were the big surprise, beating Egypt, Italy and Spain (ranked the world’s top team) before losing to Brazil 3-2 in a thrilling final at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. South Africa played well too, showing a level of organisation, persistence and inventiveness absent from previous squads; they lost narrowly to Spain.

All this bodes well for 2010, though South Africa’s absence from the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola early next year will deprive the national team of vital match practice before the big showdown next June.

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