Bafana Bafana will hope to end their long-standing negative record in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers – aiming to start the group stages on a winning note for a first time in 19 years.
The South African senior national team failed to start the past four World Cup qualifying with a win since they beat Cape Verde in June 2004 when former Bafana captain Mbulelo Mabizela scored twice for Stuart Baxter’s side.
But it all ended in sad note as Bafana, playing 10 group stage matches then, finished third with 16 points behind second-placed DR Congo.
Baxter was relieved off his duties after Bafana drew 2-2 against Claude Leroy’s DR Congo at home, with Sibusiso Zuma netting a brace on that day, canceling out goals by Treso Mputu and Shabani.
Ghana, who had players like Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Richard Kingston and Steven Appiah in their prime, finished first to qualify for their first FIFA World Cup that was held in Germany in 2006.
In the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, Bafana, despite being the host nation, also lost their opener, this time 2-0 to Nigeria, who are also in their group for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.
In the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Bafana also started the group without a win, drawing 1-1 draw with Ethiopia in Rustenburg in June 2012. But it proved costly for Pitso Mosimane as he was sacked by SAFA afterwards.
In the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the tournament that was held in Russia, Bafana drew with 1-1 with Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou, with Dean Furman scoring a blinding goal.
That game saw Itumeleng Khune make his 80th appearance in the national team when he manned up the poles under coach Shakes Mashaba.
But that campaign was bad showing by Bafana, as they finished bottom of the group, having lost four matches out of the six matches.
They had a controversial 1-0 win over Senegal wiped off by FIFA after Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was found guilty to have fixed the game in Polokwane, and it was ordered for a replay.
As it was replayed at the same venue, Bafana lost 2-0 when Thami Mkhize helped Senegal with an own goal, with the loss drawing huge criticism for Baxter in his second spell in November 2017.
In the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Bafana were held by Zimbabwe into a goalless draw in their opener away.
They finished second in the group after they controversially lost 1-0 away to Ghana in November 2021, with the Black Stars reaching the World Cup play-offs and qualified for the tournament that was held in Qatar last year.