JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's all-time leading scorer Benni McCarthy missed out on the World Cup host's final 23-man squad Tuesday.
McCarthy, the West Ham striker, was one of six players cut by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
The 32-year-old McCarthy has struggled with his fitness and been criticized at home for being overweight. He's scored 32 goals in 78 games since his debut in 1997. McCarthy had the first goal for South Africa at a World Cup when he scored against Denmark at France 1998.
He retired from international soccer after the 2002 World Cup, at the age of 24, before returning two years later. His exclusion this time around will likely lead to McCarthy retiring for good.
Parreira said he would not talk about specific players, but said all six who did not make the squad — which included midfielder Andile Jali, who had already been ruled out with a mild heart condition — could be proud of their contributions.
"It was a sad thing to have to split apart our family," Parreira said.
"But I told them put your heads up; life goes on. All of you deserve to be here. Unfortunately we have to obey FIFA rules and we can only name 23."
McCarthy said in a statement: "No one's place in the final squad is a given. I am proud to have been given the privilege to have been capped in the South African national squad, unfortunately this time it was not to be.
"The final squad is a tough call for any coach to make and I am sure it was not made without heartache."
Assistant coach Pitso Mosimane read the squad to a packed news conference that was carried live on South Africa's two official World Cup broadcasters and a number of radio stations.
Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar was included on the squad, as was veteran striker Siyabonga Nomvete.
Fan favorite Nomvete completed an unlikely comeback after being dropped by former coach Joel Santana in 2008. He was recalled by Parreira this year.
Captain Aaron Mokoena, Fulham's Kagisho Dikgacoi, Rubin Kazan midfielder Macbeth Sibaya and Bernard Parker, a striker with Dutch champion FC Twente, all made Parreira's squad.
But German-based goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez, defenders Bryce Moon and Innocent Mdledle and midfielder Franklin Cale were left out, along with McCarthy and Jandile.
South Africa claimed a morale-boosting 5-0 win over Guatemala on Monday to take its unbeaten record under Parreira to 11 games. It will play one more friendly, against fellow World Cup qualifier Denmark, on Saturday before the tournament opener against Mexico on June 11.
Former winners France and Uruguay are also in South Africa's group, which is under pressure to avoid being the first host to miss out on the second round of the tournament.
"The mission of our boys is to make this country proud," Parreira said. "And the goal, the goal is to go as far as we can in the World Cup. That's it.
"Once the ball moves, anything can happen. Everyone knows our group is a tough one. But we are ready."
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Shu-Aib Walters (Maritzburg United)
Defenders: Matthew Booth (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bongani Khumalo (Supersport United), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa), Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk), Siyabonga Sangweni (Golden Arrows), Lucas Thwala (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Lance Davids (Ajax Cape Town), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Fulham), Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), Teko Modise (Orlando Pirates), Surprise Moriri (Mamelodi Sundowns), Steven Pienaar (Everton), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan)
Forwards: Katlego Mphela (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siyabonga Nomvete (Moroka Swallows), Bernard Parker (FC Twente)