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"Nobody wants to play us," South Africa coach complains

By Zaheer Cassim

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, struggling to prevent an ignominious early exit by the World Cup hosts, expressed frustration on Friday at the difficulty of setting up strong pre-tournament friendlies.

Stymied by bad planning by the South African federation and the final stage of European competitions, the hosts returned on Friday from a training camp in Germany still short of the challenging preparation games they need to improve.

The Icelandic volcanic ash cloud that severely disrupted global air travel added to Parreira's problems with both China and Estonia pulling out of friendlies in Germany.

South Africa have played North Korea and Jamaica in the last week, managing only a goalless draw with the former which pushed them down to 90th in the FIFA world rankings.

They beat 79th-ranked Jamaica 2-0, but Bafana Bafana (the Boys) still look unconvincing, especially in goal-scoring power. The Jamaican game was only their third victory in 16 matches.

The camp included only players from the domestic league, but Parreira's problems are compounded by the fact that most European-based South African players spend the majority of their time on the bench for their clubs and lack match fitness.

LOCAL EXCITEMENT

FIFA and local organizing committee officials have expressed concern that a poor performance by South Africa and an exit after the group stage would undermine vital local excitement for the June 11-July 11 tournament. They would be the first World Cup hosts not to make the knockout second round of the finals.

Parreira asked people to "be realistic" about the home team's chances. South Africa "should not put pressure on our boys. We have to give our best and fight for the country."

Hundreds of fans blowing vuvuzela trumpets welcomed the team when they landed back in Johannesburg on Friday.

Orlando Pirates midfielder Teko Modise told reporters the team were playing well, but needed to break the goal drought. "I think the one thing we are lacking now is scoring goals. Scoring goals will bring us more confidence," he said.

(Editing by Barry Moody and Clare Fallon)