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A Tribute to a Pair of Underdogs

The 2010 edition of the FIFA World Cup has seen the fall of some of the traditional powers of Europe with France and Italy being eliminated in the group stage and Spain suffering a 1-0 loss at the hands of Switzerland. This year seemingly has been the year of the underdog ,as many teams with the odds against them are advancing.

However, try as they might, two nations in particular who won’t have more than three games this summer have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. South Africa and Honduras have performed heroically in their roles against the goliaths of world football.

South Africa, the host nation for the first ever World Cup held in Africa, had the weight of expectations of an entire continent on its shoulders. And despite its early exit, it did not disappoint. Bafana Bafana, a Zulu word meaning the boys, as the team is affectionately known in their nation, collected 4 points in a group in which they were expecting to finish last.

The opening match of the tournament let the world know that the South Africans were not pushovers. Against a heavily favored Mexico, South Africa survived a strong start from their opponents and eventually pressed forward to put in the first goal of the tournament: an absolute cracker by Tshabalala in the 55th minute. It was heard across the continent and was a great hope to the campaign of the African teams. Despite giving up the equalizer in the second half, the South Africans played courageously and never gave up, nearly adding the winner if not for the right post.

Two games later, against 1998 World Cup Champions and 2006 finalists France, the South Africans would earn the biggest victory in the history of the national team. Bafana Bafana dominated the play in the first half and went on to win 2-1 in a game in which an outside observer might have considered them to be the early favorite to take the group instead of the other way around.

Since its FIFA ban was repealed in 1992 after the demise of Apartheid, The South Africa national football squad has not seen any finer days than those of this June, ending with the defeat of a former World Champion.

The lone Central American side in 2010, Honduras is a team very much accustomed to adversity. After the 2009 coup d’etat removing then president, Manuel Zelaya, there were questions about whether the United States, among other nations in the final six teams in CONCACAF, would even travel to the nation to participate in qualifiers. At the end of the day, politics in the end played no role and everything was simply about football as the Hondurans were narrowly defeated 3-2 in front of 37,000 strong.

Honduras proved to be the third place and last qualifying team from CONCACAF and went in to the 2010 World Cup hoping to make some kind of an impact. Honduras has fought hard through two games and stayed competitive and as of this writing, is still not mathematically eliminated.

Remaining competitive is something Honduras has done quite well and has only given up three goals in their first two games, which were against some of the biggest firepower in the tournament, Spain and Chile. No different is to be expected of Honduras as they prepare for Switzerland in a game that could be in for some surprisingly open play.

From South Africa defeating World Cup giants France to Honduras playing defiantly against heavy favorite Spain, the little guys have come on quite strong and deserve to be recognized for their achievements. In the immortal words of Andy Gray, who does not say this very often: “Take a bow son, take a bow.”

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One Response

  1. I agree that Honduras represented CONCACAF admirably. I hope CONCACAF continues to develop and earns 4 spots at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

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