12 June 2010
South Africa’s national team raised their game in the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup on Friday, holding a Mexican side placed far above them in the international rankings to an enthralling 1-1 draw – with Siphiwe Tshabalala unleashing a blistering shot to score the first goal of the tournament.
South Africans around the country went into a frenzy when Bafana Bafana opened the scoring in the second half at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium – only to have their hearts ripped out when the Mexicans equalised with 10 minutes to go in the match.
Confidence will grow: Parreira
Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira believes the national squad will be more confident in their remaining group A matches, having navigated the nerve-wracking opening match without loss.
“The first game is always a lot of pressure for both teams,” Pareirra said after the match. Both teams tried to win, and I believe in the next game the team will be more confident.
While both teams started cautiously on Friday, Mexican strikers Paul Aguilar and Giovani Dos Santos caused problems for the Bafana defence, prompting some great saves from Itumeleng Khune.
The Mexican players denied Bafana space on the field, closing down the link between Steven Pienaar, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Teko Modise. When Bafana did get attacking opportunities, Modise gave the ball away too easily.
Shortly after Bafana striker Katlego Mphela narrowly missed a beautiful cross from Tshabalala, Mexico netted from a corner-kick, but were ruled off-side.
Second half comes alive
In the second half, Parreira replaced Lucas Thwala, who was struggling to close down Dos Santos, with Tsepo Masilela.
In the 54th minute, Bafana Bafana caught the Mexicans on the counter, Teko Modise giving Tshabalala a beautiful pass. “Shabba” did not disappoint as he made a good run from an acute angle before unleashing a rocket into the far corner of the net to put his side on the lead.
Bafana Bafana were all over the Mexicans after that, and should have scored two more goals, Modise having two opportunities with only the goal keeper to beat.
In the 79th minute, Rafael Marquez equalised as Bafana’s concentration seemed to lapse, Tsepo Masilela leaving the Barcelona defender unmarked.
Four minutes before the final whistle, it looked like Katlego Mphela was going to put Bafana in the lead again, but his shot hit the side-bar.
We couldn’t have scripted it better: Jordaan
Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 Local Organising Committee, was full of praise for “the incredible atmosphere and spectacular football” during the opening match, played in front of 84 490 fans.
“We could not have asked for more: a capacity stadium, a host nation with a will to win, an incredible atmosphere, and spectacular football,” Jordaan said.
“It is just fantastic that the first goal of Africa’s first World Cup went to South Africa, we really couldn’t have written a better script.
“Today we have established a template for every city and every town across South Africa to celebrate this World Cup. All of South Africa can be proud of what we have done in front of [a global television audience of] 500-million people.”