What a good start to what might be a wonderful tournament!
Welcome to Soccer City, aka Jo'burg aka Johannesburg, South Africa, folks!
As musical talents such as Shakira, Angelique Kidjo, and The Black Eyed Peas livened things up with a great concert Thursday night, the exotic and exuberant opening ceremony on Friday was capped off by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and South African president Jacob Zuma officially declaring the 2010 World Cup open.
Be it nerves or huge expectations of hosting and playing in front of 84,000 people in the first game of any World Cup on African soil, Bafana Bafana played flatly in the first half.
As soon as the referee's whistle blew and the ball was kicked off by the Mexican team, El Tri came to play. Through persistent pressure applied by manager Javier Aguirre, forward Giovani dos Santos and others on Mexico never seemed to let up throughout the entire first half.
At one time, it looked as if South Africa could have been down by as many as three goals. Yet one low shot by Mexico was blocked by goalie Itumeleng Khune in the first two minutes, while another goal minutes later was negated by an offsides call.
Fortunately, despite the number of missteps taken earlier in the game, and playing in the noted absence of former president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, 91, whose great-granddaughter died in a fatal car accident the night before, South Africa did not give up any hope.
In fact, when it seemed as if Mexico underestimated South Africa, the host country struck on its best moment of the game: with nice passes on a sleeping Mexico defense, Siphiwe Tshabalala sent a beautiful, left-footed boot past Mexico's keeper Oscar Perez in the 55th minute, leading the vuvuzela-blaring fans into a frenzy.
South Africa 1, Mexico 0.
The potential victory by Bafana Bafana was going to stay that way for quite a while, except that South Africa found itself unable to convert on scoring chances and couldn't diminish Mexico's aggression late in the second half.
The spoiled ending of their fairy tale occurred in the 79th minute when Mexico's defender Rafael Marquez, left open by South Africa's defense, took in a cross from Andres Guardado and tied the game with a short goal past Khune in the penalty box.
South Africa 1, Mexico 1.
The tie was not a disappointing result for a team and a country that many had doubts could perform so stylishly at this world stage in June. But hey, it was far better fare than what the France-Uruguay match-up produced!
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