WC ’10 inaugural match!!! SOUTH AFRICA–MEXICO
The day is finally upon us! After 4 years of waiting, let all work grind to a halt! Should I set up a WC-themed autoreply to my work email???
On paper, Mexico come into this as the rank favorites, but obviously there is no discounting the home field advantage the Bafana Bafana will enjoy here. Handy dandy Opta stats twitter informs me that “The host country has never lost its opening game of the World Cup : 14 wins, 5 draws”—good to know! Have to say, despite the thrill of the occasion, I can’t see the South Africans getting a result against an Mexican team that’s recently added some incisive attacking options to what has been a traditionally well-marshaled side. Starting lineups are in!!!
South Africa: Khune, Gaxa, Mokoena, Khumalo, Thwala, Tshabalala, Dikgacoi, Letsholonyane, Modise, Pienaar, Mphela.
Subs: Josephs, Masilela, Ngcongca, Sibaya, Davids, Booth, Parker, Nomvethe, Moriri, Sangweni, Walters, Khuboni.
Mexico: Perez, Aguilar, Rodriguez, Osorio, Salcido, Torrado, Marquez, Juarez, Giovani, Franco, Vela.
Subs: Ochoa, Barrera, Castro, Blanco, Hernandez, Moreno, Guardado, Magallon, Torres, Bautista, Medina, Michel.
Officiating this match will be Tashkent-based ref Ravshan Irmatov! Uzbek pride. No real surprises in the starting XI (for me!)—Mexico start with former Villareal & Rayas de Monterrey man Guillermo Franco up front, with a pairing of baby-Gunner Carlos Vela and rapidly-developing, globe-trotting Giovanni Dos Santos on the flanks. Looks like South Africa are playing a 4-4-1-1 with Mphela spearheading the attack, while wily winger Steven Pienaar starts behind him.
I’m slamming an editorial bagel real quick, so am missing out on what are sure to be some culturally-sensitive and incisive opening statements from fattened FIFA goose Sepp Blatter. If you want ACTUAL coverage, turn over to Paul Doyle. I hope to provide more laffs though…
WE’RE OFF! Mexico are in black jerseys here and the Bafana Bafana in yellow…¡vamos ya!
PIENAAR HAIR WATCH: Cornrow fusion looking good…dreadlocks flowing all over him.
2 min: Candidate for first African goalkeeping error of the tourney as Khune unwisely comes off his line to bat away a skimming cross…Dos Santos alllllmost bundles it in.
6 min: Bafana Bafana looking might nervous, and having trouble controlling the ball. Can’t blame ’em for letting the emotion get to them.
EL TRI HAIRWATCH: Kinda hard for me to recognize Mexico capitán Gerardo Torrado without his trademark hair poof/headband.
19 min: After some choppy moments and several S. African set pieces, Dos Santos leads Mexico on the counterattack. He has either Vela (or Franco??? sorry!) in support but elected to take a pop himself…floated high and wide. Gio’s the most dangerous man on the pitch right now…
25 min: Parreira’s South Africa are looking less conservative than I’d figured…but their passing in the final third has been sloppy and a bit too ambitious…
31 min: Mexico have had 61% of the possession so far, but are looking far less dominant than they had in the opening 15-or-so mins.
32 min: Carlos Vela, about 25 yards out and moved over to the right side, chips a ball in over the top for Guillermo Franco. He chests it down but he’s too close to keeper Khune by the time he can get his shot off and it’s swatted down.
34 min: Vela again popping up on the right side, looks like he’s switched with Dos Santos, and he put in another dangerous cross on the ground…no one on the end of it though.
37 min: GOAL DISALLOWED! Corner to Mexico, and Vela backs off his marker and is free at the far post. He chests it down and dispatches it into the net…but the linesman raises his flag. Couldn’t have been offside as S. Africa had a man covering the line. Posssssibly thought it was handball, but Vela chested it down cleanly. First FIFA conspiracy-style talking points!
42 min: Corner to South Africa…keeper Perez backpedaling and comes out to punch clear (unconvincingly), but it sails over his head. When did Ochoa stop being first-choice keep for El Tri?
44 min: Great move down the left side for South Africa, a TASTY cross comes across but Mphela can’t quite get his noggin on it. GET IN man!
45 min: Another corner for Mexico, and Kagisho Dikgacoi nods one juuust over the bar. Mexico looking pretty vulnerable from these corners—keeper Oscar Perez is only 5’7″.
HALFTIME!!! Vela and Dos Santos both looking capable of tipping the game Mexico’s way, but those set pieces might the the undoing of El Tri. Sadly I don’t have a cushy, buffering PPV stream for the World Cup like we did for CAN ’10, so there will be less jubilant screengrabbing than back in January—apologies for not having the funding to have a dedicated BOLAS & BANDEIRAS cameralady pitchside? Any volunteers willing to donate their duties to our journalistic cause? Hell, I’ll settle for a bootleg password for a photo agency password so I can steal someone else’s fotos!!! B)
46 min: We’re back! I’ve visited the aseo, I’m on my 2nd coffee, and ready for the 2nd half! I’m sticking with my predictions (made on twitter, but not formally here) from this morning: 2-0 to El Tri.
51 min: I’m drinking coffee here.
54 min: GOLLLLL 1-0 SOUTH AFRICA!!! The first of ’10 as Siphiwe Tshabalala, who has broken down the left several times, makes another run and blasts one from about 15 yards out. The net is a’bulgin and it rifles into the upper right hand corner. About that prediction…
55 min: Attacking midfield Andres Guardado, who had a quality season at Deportivo La Coruña comes on in place of Aguilar.
59 min: Dos Santos shimmies in from the right side, shuffles past two defenders and thumps a rising shot…which Khune does well to tip away from danger.
61 min: Shit is set to get livelier and livelier here, as Mexico are really starting to throw men forward. That’s what created the situation for Tshabalala’s excellent counter attack and riotously thump’d goal…
63 min: I wanna see El Chicharito!!! Will Javier Aguirre call on new Mexican striking sensation Javi Hernandez today?
66 min: Bafana Bafana are brimming with confidence here, they just had another chance which my semi-lagging stream prevents me from articulating in detail. Carlos Alberto Parreira is looking on with grandfatherly approval from the South Africa bench.
68 min: Experience-for-youth substitution here as Cuahtemoc Blanco comes on for Carlos Vela. His first World Cup appearance since 2002. Let me just say how culturally crucial I think it is to have a player named Cuahtemoc in the Mexican side…
72 min: ¡El Chicharito aparece! Javier Hernandez comes in to replace Guillermo Franco. Aguirre’s 3rd sub has pulled out basically all of his offensive stops now…
78 min: GOLLLL de MEXICO!!! 1-1! Guardado has time to pick out a cross, and with 3 Mexicans waiting in the box he finds an unmarked Rafa Marquez at the far post. He takes one touch and buries it…and we’re level.
81 min: Was that Joe Mothereffin’ Biden on camera just now? He looks nervous at hell…does he have a dog in this fight?
83 min: Striker Bernard Parker comes on for Steven Pienaar…is Parreira pushing for a winner here, or just trying to keep one of his best players fresh?
89 min: Ohhhhh my…a looong ball over the top bounces several times as Mphela chases, he controls despite being marked/chased by two Mexicans…and puts it against the post from 5 yards. Hearts in throats for South African fans here in Soccer City…
90 +2 min: One final attack for El Tri after several South African throw ins. Almost everyone back to defend for the Bafana Bafana…
PEEEEEEEP!!! Uzbek ref calls full time right on the dot. Not a bad result for the South Africans. They could have been down a coupla goals in the first half had the finishing of El Tri been a bit more deadly (Franco in particular had several headers he should have converted). Despite all the expectation, you have to think Parreira’s squad will be happy to have started off the Cup with a valuable point. I was especially impressed with Tshabalala, who scored a CRACKING (we’ll be using that one a lot, sorry) goal and also was playing provider with excellent creative passing vision in the 2nd half.
Mexico, however, will really feel they should have won this. Aguirre did some productive tinkering however…I’d like to hope Guardado starts against France next week, as he really added something else in attack. Promising performances from Santos, and to a lesser extent Carlos Vela.
IT’S OFFICIALLY ON!!! Gonna slam some wistful tacos here, and I’ll be back for Albiceleste v. Les Bleus @ 2pm or so!