World Cup opens with host country Qatar facing Ecuador at Al-Arabi Stadium in Doha. Qatar defeated Australia 2-0 earlier in the day. South Africa is a strong contender for fourth place and is hopeful of going further than third.
The four teams were drawn into groups of three with the top two advancing to the knockout stage. Group A featured Qatar, South Africa, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, while Group B had Spain, Iran and Argentina in its ranks, Group C had Australia, New Zealand and Egypt and Group D had Bahrain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
South Africa, a new member of the Confederation Cup after competing five times, was the only team to be drawn into a group with only four other sides.
“We are happy with the group as long as we are with a team that we can play against,” said head coach Rene Wevers. “We only played one side before (South Africa) and that was the Australian team, the most competitive team we have ever played.”
South Africa started the tournament on a bad note when Australia beat the visitors 7-0 in its first match, but then went on to beat Iran 2-0 with a goal from midfielder Ndamir Atakpor.
After a poor start, the hosts played well, going 1-0 up before losing 2-1 to Spain, who had a strong midfield before that.
“We were the last team to qualify which is a great achievement,” Wevers said. “We always believed that we were better than the teams that we have played. After that, it was the same, only with a little bit better.”
South Africa’s qualification for the final stage is a good one, with the team having already reached the last 16 of the Champions League and the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations. They also have a good chance of adding some European and African continental club competitions titles to their list of accomplishments, as well as a good chance of winning the Africa Cup of Nations when CAF president Mohamed Sissouh meets with Wevers on Thursday.
The hosts are expected to make a good start to the competition with a big win as they aim for a high finish.
“We knew that it wouldn’t be easy,” Wevers said. “Our goal was to qualify for the final. It is a great