World Cup is Finally Here – South Africa v Mexico

Its Here!

We waited for years for this.  Africans, and South Africans in particular for longer than most of us.  Our attention, despite the announcement 6 years ago and some questions, really turned to it after the European Championships in 2008.  Its the first time the African continent will host a tournament of such magnitude.  Make no mistake, rugby is a minor sport, as is cricket.  Football/soccer is a true world wide sport.  Only the Olympic Games can compare with the World Cup.  And despite some reservations, its on.  Seems many, including yours truly, adapted a “purist” (nice word for condescending or even racist) attitude towards South Africa being the host of the World Cup in 2010.  We are used to it being held in places like Italy, or Germany, even in South America, but not on the Dark Continent.  There was talk of crime, poverty, AIDS, wars, construction problems, those annoying vuvuzelas.  Yet we don’t moan when Brazil gets to host it.  There will be construction delays, crime is rampart, AIDS a problem.  But in the end none of that really matters.

What matters is the fact that the tournament has started, the first game is behind us.  They played.  Its finally on!  212 countries tried, only 32 got in. and all 32 will hope to progress and to win in the final and become true World Champions of the biggest sport on the planet.  Even the insular America (especially when it comes to sport) is getting it.  The hype around this WC is nothing like we have ever seen.  ESPN is going all out to promote the game and the event.  In tournaments past they hardly even tried.

To Africans, one gets a sense, its more than just a World Cup.  Finally they are on equal footing with Germany, Spain, Italy, America.  They get to host the WC.  The team itself is not a great team.  Its not even a good one IMO.  By all rights they should be eliminated in the group stages.  But it does not always work like that.  We shall see how it works out.

Game On!

And so its on.  11 on 11, ball is round, there are two goals and all that.  Two teams finally walked onto the pitch to play 90 minutes of football.  The hosts, South Africa, and  Mexico, in the Group A match of the 2010 World Cup.  And it seems the occasion got a little bit into the South Africans.   Bafana Bafana (the Boys, the Boys) as they are affectionately known came out like the boys.  They looked nervous.  Its took them more than 5 minutes to string 3 passes together.  Mexico took the game to them, creating a few chances, controlling the ball and play, dominating.  South Africa settled down a bit and created a couple of chances themselves with a few attacks.  But Mexico dominated the first half.  However they were kept out, missed a few good chances and had what seemed like a legitimate goal ruled out inexplicably.  In the 37th minute Mexico were awarded a corner.  When the ball arrived into the box the SA keeper missed the cross, it went to an open Vela and he put the ball into the net.  A clear goal.  But the whistle blew showing an offside apparently.  How?  There was a South African defender on the line.   Perhaps there was some innocuous foul that only the refs saw.  But Mexico, feeling hard done by, should be leading at half time in any case.  The number and quality of chances they created should have been rewarded with a goal.  South Africa did create some proper pressure towards the end of the half, which should calm them down and give them hope.  After a promising attack, South Africa had a series of corners.  So it was deadlocked at the half.

The second half started more evenly.  A few chances, but then the moment all South Africans were dreaming of came.  It was truly 49 million against 11 Mexicans.  Countering off the left side the melodically named South African midfielder, Tshabalala, run into the box and scored the opening goal with a brilliant finish in to the long upper corner of the net.  Superb goal.  No chance to save it by the veteran Perez.  The Mexicans were left kicking themselves for all those chances missed.  South Africans, the 83rd ranked nation, suddenly saw all their preparations and dreams realized.  They were leading the opening match of their World Cup.  The Mexicans almost answered a few minutes later but Dos Santos’ hard shot into the upper corner of the goal was brilliantly pushed away by the young South African keeper.  The Mexicans, a bit flustered, pushed on and were almost caught another time by the South African counter attack in the 66th minute.  A great chance missed by a poor finish and an apparent offside in any case.  In the 69th the young Vela of Arsenal, was replaced by the veteran, and talisman of Mexico, Blanco.  Mexico pushed on and almost immediately were hit with another counter attack.  Luck this time was on the side of Mexicans as a poor touch and desperate defending saved a goal.  For over 70 minutes the 83rd ranked team was leading the 17th ranked Mexico.  Another change came as Manchester United’s newest player Javier Hernandez came in for Franco (formerly of West Ham) in the 73rd minute.  Mexican patience and pressure finally paid off in the 79th minute.  A short corner saw most of the South African defence push up, but not all, one defender played 3 Mexicans onside and the ball arrived to the veteran defender (being played as a holding midfielder by the Mexican coach) Rafa Marquez of Barcelona.  He had an easy chance from up close, all alone on the right side in the six yard box, time to control the ball and to finish.  1-1.

Mexico continued to patiently control the ball and to create a few chances but we almost had great drama and a dream ending for South Africa.  In the 89th minute a long ball saw the South African striker Mphela alone against two defender and a keeper.  The Mexicans looked tentative and were ball watching.  The Mexican keeper stranded.  Mphela miss hit the ball a bit, but beat the keeper only to see the ball come off the post.  A minute later another long ball and another counter, this time the cross from the right wasn’t perfect and we saw the ball go innocently though the penalty area.  So it finished 1-1.  Based on play alone the Mexican will feel unlucky not to win.  But South Africa also created great chances.  So the draw perhaps, while a bit sentimental even if not the dream start, was the correct result.

And so we await impatiently to see the other 30 teams play over the coming days.  Some matches are eagerly anticipated by the whole world, some by just the participating nations, but may they all be exciting, fair and great contests of the football.  Here’s hoping.

Edit:

After seeing the replay properly I have to say I was wrong about the Mexican “goal” being disallowed.  The SA keeper foolishly came out and when the ball glanced off Dos Santos that put Vela offside.  A great call by the officials.

Match Stats

South Africa 1-1 Mexico

Tshabalala 55′, 1-0

Marquez 79′, 1-1

10(3) Shots (on Goal) 16(3)
17 Fouls 13
4 Corner Kicks 5
4 Offsides 6
35% Time of Possession 65%
2 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 0
2 Saves 2
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Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 12:29 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think South Africa would have really earned three points. The performance from Mexico was compared to their game aggainst Italy really poor.

  2. […] See the first match between South Africa and Mexico review here […]

  3. Nice to see you edited your post about the disallowed Mexican goal as I was wondering how itwas onside as the goaliecame out. To be honest I had never really knew that rule until yesterday. Good read.

    • Cheers, the commentators seemed confused too. The rule is clear, two defenders, we usually forget that bit and think of one defender because of the keeper. I think that’s what confused the commentators too. I thought the ball went off a defender myself. I was writing and watching at the same time. So did not pay attention to the replay at first.
      And yes gewinspiele, SA could have won that despite the Mexican territorial and possession advantage. A bit more composure and it could have been a dream start for the hosts. Mexico do play better football than in the previous WCs, but need a real cultured finisher to make that next step.


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