Eighteen months after he quit, Brazilian Carlos Parreira returned as coach to South Africa's national football team on Friday, replacing his compatriot Joel Santana, who was dismissed this week.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) confirmed that Parreira, 66, had been picked to turn around the lacklustre World Cup host side in the eight short months left to go before kick-off in the tournament.
"Parreira's contract with SAFA runs through to the 2010 FIFA World Cup," SAFA confirmed in its website after its national executive committee made the decision in a meeting behind closed doors in Johannesburg on Friday.
In Rio de Janeiro, Parreira appeared happy about the move in an interview with Brazilian television channel GloboNews.
"There is a special flavour to coaching the host country (in a World Cup), but that also entails a great responsibility, because the coach is at least obliged to get through the group stage and even to go a bit further," he said.
Parreira, who in the course of a 41-year coaching career led his country to the 1994 World Cup title, was no surprise choice.
Some South African football commentators had been rooting for a local coach for Bafana Bafana, but SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani told reporters that the country's football authorities did not have time to oblige.
"It was our wish to have a local person coach the national team Bafana Bafana, but we have only eight months to go to the World Cup and there is no time for experimenting, so we went for experience," Nematandani said.
"Also it is Parreira's programme that the national team is following, so it's only fair and wise that he returns to continue with it. But the meeting has agreed in principle that the next Bafana Bafana coach after the World Cup will be one of our own," he was quoted as saying in the website.
South African media had been reporting for weeks that Parreira, who spent 16 months with Bafana on his first contract, was poised for a comeback - even before Santana agreed to leave on Monday, following a string of defeats.
"I only accepted because I am not starting from scratch. There is very little time left til the World Cup, but I know the country, the players, the leadership, and all that will make my job easier," Parreira said.
Bafana's dismal performances over the past few years had caused dismay in South Africa as it prepares to stage the World Cup for the first time in Africa.
"When a country organises a World Cup, the fans are emotional and even irrational. They want the best, and the best is to reach as close as possible to the final," Parreira said.
"My obligation is only to reach the second round, and then the sky is the limit. For the players, it will be a great boost to play before their fans, and that will help the team a lot," he said.
Santana's exit followed Bafana's defeat in eight of its last nine games to mostly mediocre teams. During his 16-month tenure the 1996 African Cup of Nations champions slipped from number 76 worldwide to 85th.
Parreira had resigned in April last year, saying he wanted to return home for family reasons. While South Africans are looking to him for a breakthrough, he has not been covered in glory of late.
He returns to South Africa after being fired by Rio de Janeiro- based Fluminense in July after five successive defeats. He was Brazil's coach during the last World Cup in Germany but retired afterwards, when the team crashed out in the quarter-finals.
It was Parreira who recommended Santana, a former coach to Brazilian top club Flamengo, to replace him when he left.