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MUCH has been said and written about the Confederations Cup and the moment, for which many soccer fans have been waiting with bated breath, has finally arrived.
The tournament kicks off on Sunday with hosts South Africa taking on Iraq at Ellis Park Stadium at 4pm.
The match has been described by Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana and his skipper Aaron "Mbazo" Mokoena as a must-win for the South Africans.
They said winning the opener will not only build the players' morale for their next match against New Zealand in Rustenburg on Wednesday, but also win them the much-needed support of the entire nation.
Bafana go into their tie on the back of back-to-back wins against Mauritius and Poland, but it will be foolhardy of them to read too much into those victories.
While Bafana looked better organised in those outings, their failure to score more goals should be a concern for Santana and his technical staff.
Ranked 72nd in the world, the South Africans should have buried the Indian Ocean islanders and the Poles with an avalanche of goals had they converted their chances. But it should be said that the wins have boosted the Bafana's confidence for the Iraq clash.
Santana should know what is expected of him in this tournament in terms of delivering.
Clive Barker was fired when Bafana arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport after the South Africans had fared badly in their maiden appearance in the "Festival of Champions" in Saudi Arabia in 1997.
Iraq, on the other hand, will make their debut in this tournament and, while on paper they don't look well-placed to beat Bafana, they can cause an upset if taken lightly.
"The squad that we have picked for this tournament will make South Africa proud and it is important for us as the host team to impress," Santana said.
Besides winning the 2007 Asian Cup, Iraq's only biggest global achievement was when they reached the 1986 World Cup played in Mexico.
Bafana's probable starting line-up: Itumeleng Khune, Siboniso Gaxa, Tsepo Masilela, Matthew Booth, Mokoena, Benson Mhlongo, Teko Modise, MacBeth Sibaya, Steven Pienaar, Thembinkosi Fanteni and Bernard Parker.