BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

The first booking of the World Cup is nothing of the sort as Efraín Juárez is booked for a handball but such advantage is all the home side can take on this the opening day of the World Cup.

South Africa are penned in with Giovani dos Santos running dangerously at them for the Mexicans and Carlos Vela proving useful on the right but the longer the Central Americans go without scoring the more the Africans grow in confidence.

Guillermo Franco sees a good chance saved by Itumeleng Khune in the home goal and then within the minutes before half time the visitors oddly short keeper is marshalling his defence against two corners.

The home support tries to will those corners in. Mexico know all there is to know about being the host of the World Cup being the first to do it twice and on both occasions recording best performances.

The 1986 vintage of Mexico – Hugo Sanchez and all – were powered through the tournament and South Africa would hope for the same. A group with the less than impressive French, a Uruguay side who made Argentina’s qualifying look impressive and Mexico suggests there is scope to do so.

A good World Cup – it was said – needs a good performance by the host nation and the first African country to have the event work hard to ensure they are on the same level as the more technically gifted visitors. Much trumpeted danger-man Steven Pienaar is well marshalled by the Mexicans but they leave space behind the right back and long pass to Siphiwe Tshabalala is blasted home with accuracy and glee.

The first goal of the World Cup. It has begun.

dos Stantos does much to try level things for the Central Americans stinging Khune’s palms but the Mexicans are on the back foot. One remembers Argentina’s battering of Cameroon on the opening day of the World Cup – holders used to play first not hosts – when one down is the stuff of legends albeit for the reckless tackles and defensive fortitude but such assaults that seems beyond Mexico.

The exciting dribbling which one worried might be ineffectual in the first have proves to be in the second and too often the Mexicans are left running away from Gold shirts closing them down. So much of football is in the mind and the belief that has poured into the home side has ebbed from the visitors who second guess themselves. Cuauhtémoc Blanco comes on for Vela, a last throw of the dice.

Great pace Blanco, despite his white boots.

South Africa could have a penalty when Francisco Rodríguez pushes over Teko Modise although when clean through Modise perhaps could have stayed upright for longer and perhaps nicked the ball over Óscar Pérez.

Eventually he does. A cross from a nothing ball sees South Africa’s backline trying to play offside – or just not marking as Aaron Mokoena seems to have been given the job of marking three players – and captain Rafael Márquez puts the ball in not so much as the result of pressure but rather the result of a team which seemed to have decided that they would win rather than that they could. South Africa come back to life but Mexico scent victory even if they have no obvious path to it save waiting for another brain freeze from the hosts.

Neither does break through although Katlego Mphela’s bold run and control sees him hit the foot of the post. His reaction – skipping up while on the floor as if charged with 10,000 volts – says much, In an even game the hosts could have earned a win but the draw is fair. Neither should fear the other two teams in this group.

The World Cup begins.

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