South Africa 's football team is set to play what is likely to be its final match at the World Cup tournament it is hosting.
For the last round of World Cup group games, four matches will be played each day, instead of three. Two of the eight groups will be in action on each of four days (beginning Tuesday). And within each group, the games will be played simultaneously. That is to help prevent any match-fixing among teams that might need a certain number of points or goals to go through to the second round.
And goal difference could be a deciding tiebreaker in both Groups A and B Tuesday because of how the teams are bunched after their first two matches.
In Group A, Uruguay and Mexico lead with four points each and will play one another, while France and South Africa - both with one point - square off. Uruguay has a plus-three goal difference and Mexico plus-two. France has minus-two and South Africa minus-three. If Uruguay and Mexico draw, they advance and France and South Africa are out.
For the hosts to make the second round, they would have to score a lopsided win over France and hope for a winner in the Uruguay-Mexico match by a low margin. While Portugal scored seven unanswered goals against North Korea Monday, South Africa is not likely to find the net that many times against France , and midfielder Macbeth Sibaya knows it.
"Maybe a miracle can happen this time now, but we're just hoping for the best, even though it seems like it's climbing Mount Everest. But we're going to do whatever is possible,"said Sibaya.
One needs only to recall last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa when a local newspaper printed that the U.S. Soccer team was out of the tournament and that its final game against Egypt was meaningless. But that night the improbable happened. The U.S. beat Egypt, 3-0, and Italy lost to Brazil, 3-0, shockingly sending the USA into the semifinals over Italy on total goals scored, as both finished the group phase with the same number of points and the same goal differential.
South African midfielder Teko Modise says if they can't advance, they want to at least have a good showing.
"For us, it's about honor, because we really want to do well against France . It's one of those that games really, really people will remember, will remember us by," said Modise.
Teammate Tsepo Masilela, a defender, agreed.
"It's about us. You know we need to go out there and play a good game and win the game. We just need to win it for our people, for the fans, you know, for South Africans," said Masilela"
No host nation has failed to reach the second round of a World Cup. The starting goalkeeper for South Africa is expected to be Moeneeb Josephs, because Khune Itumeleng was given a red card and sent off in the last game, meaning he has to miss this match. Josephs said he is ready.
"They say France is not doing well, yes, but if you look at the team it's still quality, quality players on the team. And it's something to look forward to. It's been a dream [of mine] to play in a game like this, and here's the opportunity now," said Josephs.
The French team has been marred by controversy. Striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for publicly criticizing coach Raymond Domenech, and the squad boycotted its training session on Sunday in protest.
In Group B, Argentina tops the standings with two wins, for six points, and is the only one of the four teams with a positive goal difference with plus-four. The Argentines need only a draw against Greece to advance and could advance even if they lose by a small margin. Greece has three points.
South Korea also has three points, and like Greece, a minus-one goal difference. The Koreans take on Nigeria which has lost both its matches with a minus-two goal difference. The winner will most likely reach the second round, provided Argentina beats Greece, while the loser will almost certainly go home.