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Goal South Africa looks back at four of the best Bafana Bafana teams to ever represent the country


Starting line-up:
Andre Arendse, Sizwe Motaung, Neil Tovey, Lucas Radebe, Tinkler, Buthelezi, Doctor Khumalo, John Moshoeu, Phil Masinga, Shaun Bartlett

This was the Bafana Bafana side which reached its greatest heights – the 1996 Afcon title. The team, brimming with talent, was led by Clive “The Dog” Barker who turned the class of 96’ into a cohesive and ultimately deadly unit.

Captained by Neil Tovey, the team had all its bases covered with a strong defensive set-up added to by  uncompromising and gifted midfield players, and topped with some lethal marksman. However, their Africa Cup of Nations was largely attributed to work ethic and teamwork. Merely four years after readmission to the international arena, the class of 96’ captured the imagination of a nation when they defeated Tunisia 2-0 to win South Africa’s first and only reputable title. 


Starting line-up: Andre Arendse, David Nyathi, Mark Fish, Lucas Radebe, Pierre Issa, Quinton Fortune, John Moshoeu, Helman Mkhalele, Shaun Bartlett, Brendan Augustine, Benni McCarthy

This was perhaps the apex of Bafana Bafana’s success as a footballing force. The core of the 1996 team was supplemented by talented youngsters such as Quinton Fortune and Benni McCarthy, who took South African football to the 1998 Fifa World Cup in France.

Backed by inspirational captain Lucas Radebe in defence, the team was able to perform despite changes in the coaching department. The world-class talents of Bartlett, McCarthy and Fortune and the hard-working players such as Fish and Mkhalele proved to be the ideal mix for Bafana Bafana.   

A consecutive Africa Cup of Nations final preceded the World Cup finals, but the side could not overcome Egypt in the final of the 1998 tournament. Grouped with hosts France, Denmark and Saudi Arabia, Bafana Bafana left their first World Cup after two draws and a loss in the first round.


Starting line-up: Andre Arendse, Cyril Nzama, Lucas Radebe, Aaron Mokoena, Bradley Carnell, Sibusiso Zuma, Macbeth Sibaya, Teboho Mokoena, Quinton Fortune, Benni McCarthy, Siyabonga Nomvethe

A third-place finish at the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations was followed by consecutive World Cup qualification for the Bafana Bafana side of this period. The team made it to the quarter-finals of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations in Mali, before traveling to Asia. The 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan saw the South African side almost clinch a spot in the quarter-final stage, but they were undone by goal difference in the group stages after finishing level on points with Paraguay.

A largely new-look side still relied on the foundations of now elder statesman Lucas Radebe and Andre Arendse, with the maturing talents of Fortune and McCarthy being the catalyst behind South Africa’s success in the early part of the 21st century.

South Africa’s performance at the tournament was considered to be a sign of things to come for the football team, but this was not to be as the side was hampered by the loss of experienced stars and consistency in the coaching department. They failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, disappointed in both the 2004 and 2006 Africa Cup of Nations and slowly lost fan support as results continued to worsen.


Starting line-up: Itumeleng Khune, Anele Ngcongca, Aaron Mokoena, Tsepo Masilela, Macbeth Sibaya, Teko Modise, Steven Pienaar, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Katlego Mphela, Bernard Parker

The 2009 Confederations Cup and 2010 Fifa World Cup South African side was in no way the greatest conglomeration of talent the country has ever produced. Even though the majority of the team were locally based and lacking in experience, they performed admirably at both tournaments. A 4th place finish at the Confederations Cup culminated in an enthralling 3-2 loss against eventual world-champions Spain.

Despite failing at the first hurdle when hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup, this Bafana Bafana team was able to perform under immense pressure and produced one of their finest performances against European giants France in the final must-win group game.

The team was hampered by the loss of arguably their most lethal forward Benni McCarthy and had to deal with the expectations of a nation. Their final position in the group may not have secured a place in the next round, but not many will forget the 2-1 victory over France.  

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