Financial stocks and shares were not the only items plummeting this week as the football fortunes of 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa took another nosedive.
The effect of a disastrous 2010 World Cup-African Nations Cup second round qualification campaign was felt on the monthly rankings from world governing body FIFA.
Seldom has the national team nickname of Bafana Bafana (The Boys) seemed more appropriate as their ranking fell to 20 in Africa and 85 in the world less than two years before tackling some of the giants at the World Cup.
Although guaranteed a place at the World Cup as hosts, South Africa had to compete in the qualifiers because they double as eliminators for the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola.
And although Bafana must have feared the worse when the draw placed them in the same group as long-time bogey team Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone were considered anything but insurmountable obstacles.
But as South Africa prepare to face Equatorial Guinea here Saturday in their final fixture, dreams of warming up for the World Cup by competing in Angola five months earlier have been dashed.
If Bafana Bafana lose they will finish bottom of the table and suffer their greatest humiliation since being readmitted to international football in 1992 after almost three decades of apartheid-induced isolation.
Runaway leaders Nigeria (15 points) have already secured a place in the final qualifying phase with Sierra Leone (seven), South Africa (four) and surprisingly poor Equatorial Guinea (three) trailing in the distance.
Should they win here and Sierra Leone lose to the ‘Super Eagles’ in Abuja, South Africa would climb one place to second, but have no chance of claiming one of eight slots reserved for the best runners-up from the 12 mini-leagues.
Because results against the bottom team do not count, Bafana would have a solitary point from a goalless home draw against the ‘Leone Stars’ when they probably need six to survive.
Russia-based defender Matthew Booth believes a key factor in the fall and fall and fall of Bafana was the failure to develop the national under-23 squad that stunned Brazil at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“What the South African Football Association should have done was keep that squad intact and add players as time went by to strengthen it,” said recently recalled Booth.
Another member of the Sydney squad to survive is Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy, who has ‘retired’ several times after disputes with South African officials, usually cash related.
Brazil-born coach Joel Santana is set to start with McCarthy and Siyabonga Nkosi from German outfit Arminia Bielefeld, meaning no place for in-form Bernard Parker, who goes on trial to Swedish club Malmo soon.
Parker struck twice in a friendly triumph over Malawi last week and is the leading domestic scorer so his omission will puzzle South Africans given that the national team has failed to score in four of five qualifiers.