Bafana thanks supporters

Bafana expressed gratitude to fans for standing by them, despite failing to qualify for the World Cup.

Bafana Bafana fans at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on 23 January 2013. Picture: Lelo Mzaca/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Bafana Bafana on Monday thanked the nation for their support and expressed disappointment after they failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup outright.

The squad received a warm welcome when they arrived at OR Tambo International Airport earlier in the day.

The national team was greeted by handclaps, hugs, chanting and the sound of vuvuzelas.

Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said he was encouraged by the team's effort and fighting spirit.

"Of course we didn't win it, but we did our best. From the players' side, I think everything went well. I'm very pleased with the performance of the players as individuals and as a team."

South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Dennis Mumble said they were pleased that Bafana's hopes of qualifying could be handed a lifeline.

FIFA could deduct points from Ethiopia for fielding an ineligible player against Botswana last week.

Bafana last qualified for a World Cup in 2002.

They qualified automatically for the 2010 World Cup as they were the hosts.