9 June 2010
South Africa take on Mexico at Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg on Friday in the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. It promises to be a thrilling encounter, with Bafana Bafana’s players oozing confidence, though well aware that the Mexicans will be tough to beat.
Bafana striker Bernard Parker said he was aware that their first opponents were an experienced side, but one that would hopefully not outplay them.
“We know that they are an experienced side, but we cannot be walked all over on our own home ground. We will go out to do what we do best, keeping the ball on the ground and scoring goals,” he said on Tuesday.
The FC Twente striker said he was not concerned about facing Mexican skipper Rafael Marquez, who is regarded as one of the best defenders in the world.
“I know that Marquez is an experienced defender, but should he become more solid, as a striker I will also get tougher,” he said.
‘Anything is possible’
Parker said Bafana’s focus is to go beyond the group stages of the tournament. “We want to beat all our opponents; anything is possible at the knockout stages,” he said.
Winning all their World Cup preparation friendly matches has boosted the player’s confidence, Parker said, adding that they did not feel under pressure as they were physically and mentally fit to face Mexico.
Bafana defender Matthew Booth said confidently that, once they had beaten Mexico on Friday, the momentum would carry them through to the second stage of the tournament.
“Our coach [Carlos Alberto Parreira] proved to be the right candidate for the job because he gave the team confidence. We are physically fit, looking good as ever,” he said.
Injury not serious
Bafana’s goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune, said the injury he sustained when Bafana beat Colombia 2-1 was not serious, and that he was more than ready for the opening match. “It was just a knock, and the medical team declared me fit.”
Khune said it was important for Bafana to win their opening match on Friday.
“It is crucial for us as the host to win all the matches; we’ve a good advantage – our supporters who will come in their numbers blowing vuvuzelas. We are prepared to do more than our best for our country. We are prepared to show what we are made of.
“Mexico is an experienced team, but we will give them a good run,” Khune said. “We’ve quality and capable players who are committed to making themselves and their country proud.”
Khune emphasised that the team wants to beat the Mexicans and not draw with them.
‘They should be worried about us’
“I don’t think as Bafana we should be worrying about Mexico, instead they should be the ones worried about playing us at home in front of our vibrant crowd.”
Teammate Siphiwe Tshabalala, who will be making his 50th appearance in Bafana colours, said he can’t wait to play on Friday.
“It would be an important day for me because I will be marking my 50th cap for Bafana, and I would like to celebrate the day with a very good performance and victory,” he said.
Mexico has qualified for the past four World Cups, from 1994 until 2006. They have reached the round of 16 on every occasion, but have not progressed beyond that stage. The Mexicans are currently ranked 17th by Fifa.