The 2010 FIFA World Cup began where it will come to an end in a month, at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The vuvuzelas were in full effect for the emotional and momentous opener between World Cup hosts South Africa and Mexico.
But unfortunately for South Africa, historical figure Nelson Mandela couldn't be present for one of the most important moments in the nation's history, due to the tragic death of his great-granddaughter.
SOUTH AFRICA (Tshabalala 55) 1-1 MEXICO (Marquez 79)
Mexico dominated possession early on, throwing a few scares in the South African area.
But nothing came of it.
The Mexicans dominated the ball throughout the scoreless first half, getting the better and majority of the half chances, including a disallowed goal in which Carlos Vela was offside.
Many may have doubted the offside call, but few are aware that the goalie wasn’t behind the ball. It was the correct call and a spectacular job by the linesman.
Giovani Dos Santos was very active and alive in attack and Guillermo Franco was certainly disappointed with his failure to finish on his multiple opportunities in the half.
The South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune may have been caught recklessly out of position on a few occasions, but he also made a few aggressive stops. Siphiwe Tshabalala was South Africa’s most dangerous player in the rare occasion that they were in attack.
In the second half, a much more lively South African side took the pitch and produced the World Cup opening score. The goal came in thundering fashion in the 55th minute from Siphiwe Tshabalala.
South Africa took possession in their own end and began the counterattack. They strung three quick passes together and Kagisho Dikgacoi did well to spread a through ball wide to a sprinting Tshabalala down the left wing.
Tshabalala outran his defender and unleashed an unstoppable blast top corner far post to give South Africa a 1-0 lead.
After the score, the match seemed to open up immediately.
South Africa looked more confident, but Mexico displayed the next real opportunity when Dos Santos forced a hefty save from a leaping Khune at his nearpost.
Dos Santos continued with his threatening penetrating dribbling runs, but the Mexicans were struggling in the finishing department.
In the 70th Minute Teko Modise had a dangerous scoring opportunity when he was sent in on goal by an excellent pass, only for his off balanced effort to be denied by the keeper and a strong physical play by Mexican defender Francisco Rodriguez.
With twenty minutes to play, Mexico used all three of their subs to strengthen up an attack to equalize the score line. And in the 79th minute, the plan came to fruition.
Off a botched corner play, Andres Guardado sent in a perfect ball far post to an awaiting onside Rafael Marquez, who was in on the keeper and blasted a close range effort into the back of the net to tie the match 1-1.
With Mexico pushing up for the winner, South Africa almost snatched a goal of their own via another counterattack in the dieing minutes. Katlego Mphela sidefooted an effort off a fast paced bouncing ball that beat a stranded keeper but slapped off the post in agonizing fashion.
The match came to a conclusion at 1-1 with both nations salvaging a point. South Africa was clearly the more satisfied of the sides. Bafana Bafana will be pleased with their counterattack, but know they must do a better job in possession, and marking in their own area, in future matches.
Mexico will rue not capitalizing on their first half dominance, but they will also accept a point because they were playing the hosts and they did overcome a deficit.
El tri must also improve greatly at defending or preventing such free flowing dangerous counterattacks.
Men of the Match-
South Africa- Siphiwe Tshbalala
Mexico- Giovani Dos Santos
FRANCE 0-0 URUGUAY
France and Uruguay took the pitch at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. Both sides looked to take an early stranglehold on the group and claim a full three points after a South Africa-Mexico draw.
France produced the first opportunity of the match in the seventh minute. A fast and fortunate run by Franck Ribery led him down the left wing, where he grounded a cross through the area. Govou touched his on running effort wide of the farpost.
Uruguay then settled into a rather defensive formation, with seven to eight men behind the ball at all times, when France entered their half of the pitch.
In the 16th minute, Uruguay got their first real scoring chance when Diego Forlan cut into the area and stung the French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’. With a routine save, Lloris gloved the attempt away.
France threatened back in the 18th minute when Yoann Gourcuff sent a brave attempt on goal from an impossible angle on a set piece, forcing a quick and alert save from Fernando Muslera at the near post.
As the first half progressed, Uruguay showed more aggression up the field in attack. But they were repeatedly drawn offside just before entering the scoring area. It was commonplace to find Forlan at the heart of the majority of the Uruguayan attacks.
Abou Diaby was France’s top performer in the first half, as he was physical and a step ahead of his opponents in the midfield winning balls and linking up to the attack. Ribery was a threat early on, but the Uruguayan defense shadowed him as the half progressed decreasing his involvement in the action. Striker Nicolas Anelka missed on his two half chance headers sending them wide of the target.
The Second half started in a rather uneventful fashion as the nations began to feel each other out all over again with Uruguay soaking up most of France’s attack and the French failing to produce that special moment of creativity or brilliance in the scoring area.
Uruguay had the first golden opportunity in the 73rd minute when the ball was flicked onto a still Forlan in the scoring area where he went on to onetime a smash with the outside of his boot wide of the target. Surely a chance that the highly acclaimed striker regrets missing.
Uruguay’s 63rd minute substitute Nicolas Lodeiro provided further action in the quiet second half. In the 81st minute, he was shown his second yellow card of the match after a dangerous studs up tackle to Bacary Sagna's ankle.
The red card left Uruguay playing a man down for the final 10 or so minutes. That’s when France began to threaten Uruguay’s penalty area, but to no avail.
No one on France could provide the breakthrough. The final whistle blew, ending the match in a 0-0 draw.
Uruguay proved to be a tough defensive squad, as they stifled the French attack throughout the match. They had their chances through their best player Diego Forlan. But in the end, they will be satisfied with the point, and a four-way tie atop Group A, after playing the group favourites.
France will be frustrated with the lack of opportunities in what they will call a negative performance against Uruguay. But they will take the point and move on.
Even second half substitutes Thierry Henry and Florent Malouda couldn't create goals for France when they had the man advantage.
But look for France to alter their starting eleven for their crucial next match against Mexico.
Men of the Match-
France- Abou Diaby
Uruguay- Diego Godin
GOAL OF THE DAY - Siphiwe Tshbalala’s 55th minute rocket in the top corner of the farpost gave South Africa a 1-0 lead and opened the scoring for the FIFA 2010 World Cup.
CELEBRATION OF THE DAY - No contest here as this one easily goes to Siphiwe Tshbalala and the gang, who broke into a staged and unified Macarena-Bus driver like celebration in the corner that entertained the masses.
MATCH OF THE DAY - South Africa 1-1 Mexico
BEST CALL OF THE DAY - The linesman who made the rare occasion look routine when he properly flagged Mexico’s Carlos Vela offside with a charging goalie ahead of the ball, leaving only one defender on the post. Hats off to this linesman. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come and we get a greatly officiated tournament.
CONCLUSION- This exciting first day of the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa supplied us with plenty of memories despite the fact we didn’t see a winner. Tshbalala’s smashing tournament opener supplied us with another beauty to start off the competition, ala Phillip Lahm’s from 2006 for Germany.
Group A has a four-way tie, with all nations earning a point, further proving the theory that anyone from this group can move on to the second round.
South Africa 1