2010 World Cup Predictions: South Africa vs. Mexico
The World Cup finally kicks off on Friday as host South Africa take on Mexico at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.
We will preview all the action in the Group A opener and tell you which players you should be watching.
Why do they bother with the opening ceremony?
The only memorable thing that has ever happened at a World Cup opening ceremony was Diana Ross’ spectacular penalty miss at USA ‘94.
With the goal at her mercy, the Supreme blazed wide from 12 yards.
Strangely, the goalposts still exploded as if she hit the target. I guess she was just in the middle of a chain reaction.
Interestingly, the 1994 tournament ended with a spectacular penalty miss, as Roberto Baggio hoisted his penalty shoot-out kick high over the crossbar to hand Brazil the World Cup.
The Host and Their Fans
How will South Africa react to the fanatical support of the home crowd?
Will a weak side be buoyed and inspired by the roar of the fans?
Or will the expectation and pressure of being the host nation prove too much for Carlos Alberto Parreira’s players?
No host nation has ever gone out of the World Cup in the opening round.
South Africa are likely candidates to break that record, unless the 12th man can help the team.
Who Will Score South Africa’s Goals?
Veteran striker Benni McCarthy was a surprise, yet inevitable, exclusion from Parreira’s roster.
His January transfer from Blackburn to West Ham failed to provide him with enough playing time and he was rumored to be overweight.
Yet South Africa has few proven goal-scorers to take their record goal-scorer’s place.
Parreira will be hoping that Bernard Parker, who scored twice in last year’s Confederations Cup, can live up to his promise.
The 24-year old spent the second half of this season playing for newly crowned Dutch champions FC Twente, though he only scored twice in over 20 games.
Mexico’s Young Attack
In their warm-up matches, Mexico coach Javier Aguirre seem to prefer a youthful striking trio of Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, and Javier Hernandez.
With their sharp passing and quick runs behind the defense, they were instrumental in Mexico’s 2-1 win in the friendly against Italy.
If Aguirre chooses to start them all against South Africa, they could cause the host nation a lot of problems.
Mexico’s Wasteful Attack
Despite the superb build-up play, Mexico has often come up short in front of the goal.
Against both England and Italy, they struggled to create many clear-cut chances despite dominating possession.
When they did get a sight on goal they were often wasteful, particularly new Manchester United signing Javier Hernandez.
The question for Aguirre is: will his young strikers continue to fluff their lines when they are in sight of goal, particularly given the pressure of playing in the World Cup’s opening match?
Perhaps he needs to call on the experience of West Ham striker Guillermo Franco instead of Hernandez. Though Mexico will lose some of their quickness, a more clinical finisher might be the key to Mexico’s success.
After how many minutes will you turn to your friend and say: "Those vuvuzelas are annoying aren’t they?"
The world could not help take notice of the South African fan’s favorite noise-making instrument at last year’s Confederations Cup. The horns blared throughout every game and even drew complaints from some of the players.
Scientists recently measured the decibel level and declared the vuvuzelas’ sound emission to be at a dangerously high level, worse than an air horn or a chainsaw.
But aren’t football matches supposed to be noisy? Isn’t it better to be blasted by a wall of noise than sitting like students in the library that is Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium?
Who to Watch: Steven Pienaar (South Africa)
The Everton midfielder had an excellent season for his club and is South Africa’s one genuine threat.
He will have to improve his goal tally of just two in 50 appearances, if his side wishes to progress.
Who to Watch: Matthew Booth (South Africa)
Not likely to start, but you may notice what sounds like jeering should the veteran defender make an appearance from the bench.
Don’t worry! It is not the South African fans booing the team’s only white player. They are just chanting his name: BOOOOOOO-TH.
Who to Watch: Giovani Dos Santos (Mexico)
The exciting 21-year old has already played for a number of different clubs in his short career.
He started his career at Barcelona before he signed for Tottenham Hotspur. He has failed to impress at Spurs and has since been loaned out to Galatasary.
However, the winger—whose father is Brazilan—always seems to play well when he pulls on a Mexico shirt and is a joy to watch on his day.
Who To Watch: Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Mexico)
The Mexican legend is 37 and out of shape, but you can expect a game-changing substitute appearance at some point in the World Cup.
Of course, Blanco is already a World Cup legend after his hilarious bunny-hop trick during France ’98.
Surrounded by two Italian defenders, Blanco held the ball between his feet and simply hopped through the pair. Schoolyard soccer at its finest.
South Africa vs. Mexico: prediction
Our prediction: Draw
South Africa plays with passion, Mexico with style.
Both teams will miss chances before coming away with a draw that the host will celebrate through the night.