|Nani had been in good form for Portugal in qualifying for the World Cup [GALLO/GETTY]
Portuguese winger Nani became the latest big name to drop out of the World Cup as fans contemplated an ever-growing injury list which is threatening to rob the tournament of some glamour on the pitch despite the exotic African backdrop.
In a huge blow to Portugal's hopes of a first World Cup triumph, Nani was ruled out with a shoulder injury he picked up in training at home before flying to South Africa.
Other crowd-pullers like England's David Beckham, Germany's Michael Ballack and Ghana's Michael Essien pulled out long ago due to injuries.
And Cote d'Ivoire's Didier Drogba and the Netherlands' Arjen Robben are fighting not to join them.
African Footballer of the Year Drogba needs surgery on a fractured arm, but it is unclear if the striker will then be able to play.
Dutch winger Robben has hurt a hamstring but is hoping to join team-mates later in the tournament to help a nation that has never won the Cup despite its famously skilful teams.
Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo, Australian winger Harry Kewell, Chilean striker Humberto Suazo, and South Korean forward Lee Dong-guk are others struggling to get fit.
Spain and Brazil are favourites for the world's most widely-watched sporting tournament, which has never produced a winner outside Europe or South America.
Millions of Africans, though, are praying one of their six teams here can break that, or at least go further than Cameroon and Senegal's quarter-final showings in 1990 and 2002.
Injuries and tough groups, however, mean there is a real risk all the Africans may fall at the first round hurdle.
South Africa's Bafana Bafana are the lowest-ranked African team at the tournament, but have fanatical ranks of vuvuzela-blowing locals – and a recent unbeaten run of 12 games – to lift them.
"As it gets nearer to kickoff, the nerves are beginning," admitted South Africa striker Bernard Parker.
Clash in a calabash
Their opening game against Mexico will take place in front of 90,000 people, and millions worldwide, in the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, which resembles a calabash or African pot.
Africa's most famous son Nelson Mandela held his first rally at Soccer City in 1990 after 27 years in jail and the hosts hope the tournament will showcase the new country he helped shape after decades of apartheid and foreign isolation.
The hosts inaugurated Africa's first high speed urban train in Johannesburg on Tuesday, just in time to help fans bypass the city's notorious traffic jams.
While infrastructure preparations by the hosts have broadly gone smoothly, a stampede inuring 15 people at a Nigeria-North Korea friendly on Sunday was a reminder of risks on a continent where football is often chaotically run.
In other pre-tournament incidents, New Zealand cut short a training session due to smoke from a nearby poor township, and Australia moved from a pitch their coach described as hopeless.
South Africa is confident, though, that years of spending and preparation will bear fruit and help banish the usual stereotypes of poverty and hunger associated with Africa.
"South Africa has come alive and will never be the same again after this World Cup," President Jacob Zuma said.