Bafana Bafana hope for 1996 magic

As hosts Bafana Bafana, enters the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations carrying the weight of expectation of the home nation's supporters.

Not only this, there is the weight of history too, because the country previously claimed the Afcon title in 1996 on the only other occasion it has hosted the continental championship.

One of the most glaring differences between Clive Barker's 1996 title-winning side and the current team, under Gordon Igesund, is that of star power, even though some of Barker's players became stars in the Afcon tournament itself.

Nonetheless, players like Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish and Doctor Khumalo have secured their places in South African football history. Possibly the only player in the current team that has managed that is Siphiwe Tshabalala, based on his stunning opening goal of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Igesund, like every coach before him, except for Barker, has been saddled with challenge of preparing a team for the Africa Cup of Nations having replaced his predecessor shortly before the event.

The biggest problem Igesund faces, like many of his predecessors, is that of goal scoring. Katlego Mphela owns the best goal scoring record among current Bafana Bafana strikers, with a good 23 goals in 45 internationals, but the general feeling is that he should score many more goals than he does.

Igesund has named Netherlands-based Thulani Serero in their Africa Cup of Nations squad, despite the midfielder not having played since September.

He is one of seven foreign-based stars in a squad Igesund described as "an exciting collection of young players."

Igesund said he was prepared to gamble on Serero's fitness because of the match-winning ability of the 22-year-old from Ajax Amsterdam.

Serero participated in a three-match training camp and convinced the coach that he was fit following three months out with a groin injury.

"It is a dream side that I believe can do us justice at the tournament," said Igesund.

Since the 2010 Fifa World Cup, South Africa has been in free-fall in the Fifa world rankings, dropping to a yearly low of 84th in November.

Afcon 2013 offers Bafana Bafana an opportunity to uplift the game in the country by recapturing some of the magic of the 2010 Fifa World Cup and drawing on the memories of the 1996 Cup of Nations.

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