South Africa draws in pulsating WC opener

By James Maasdorp

Updated June 12, 2010 12:49:00

Storming opener: Siphiwe Tshabalala (centre-right) opened the World Cup goal tally with a sumptuous finish.

Storming opener: Siphiwe Tshabalala (centre-right) opened the World Cup goal tally with a sumptuous finish. (Getty Images: Christof Koepsel)

World Cup host South Africa has managed to draw 1-1 against the much-fancied Mexico in an enthralling opening match at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

After being outclassed in the first half, South Africa more than earned a draw against El Tri and may yet think it should have won the game.

The point earned will boost South Africa after many pundits predicted the team would become the first hosts not to reach the knock-out stages.

SA midfielder Teko Modise countered with a superb through-ball to Siphiwe Tshabalala on 55 minutes, who smacked a top-corner belter, sending the home fans into delirium.

Mexico equalised off a short corner on 79 minutes as Andres Guardado found captain Rafael Marquez who finished comfortably at close range.

But SA's Katlego Mphela nearly scored an historic last-minute winner, only to be denied by the upright on 89 minutes. Set free by his keeper's long ball, Mphela's side looked to go direct in the dying minutes to forge an unlikely win.

Earlier, SA goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune looked to have saved Bafana Bafana's skins with a save for the cameras, clawing out Giovanni Dos Santos's shot which seemed destined for goal.

Modise and Steven Pienaar were behind the hosts regaining their composure in the second half, putting in darting runs and good passes after the side earlier copped a barrage of Mexican pressure in the first half.

Young winger Dos Santos had tormented the hosts' defence down the right flank throughout the first 45 minutes, but Mexico seemed unable to conjure up its earlier brilliance after South Africa's goal.

Mexico eventually got its chance to equalise after exploiting SA's defensive weakness as Marquez was left completely free in front of goal.

The home side looked to finish the game sitting deep, as Mexico found its form once more to pressure South Africa.

The opening fixture provided an excellent spectacle to open the tournament and South Africa commendably rose above pundits' pre-game predictions it would struggle against technically superior opponents.

Mexico dominate

The teams walked out to a cacophony of vuvuzelas at full blast before the start of the game, as South Africa's president Jacob Zuma and FIFA head Sepp Blatter welcomed the world to 'Africa's World Cup'.

The host nation had earlier staged a vibrant opening ceremony full of colour, noise and traditional performers.

Mexico dominated the game's opening stages with slick counterattacks, as Dos Santos missed a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring as early as the second minute.

South Africa's keeper Khune cut off a dangerous cross from the right, but Dos Santos failed to sneak in the rebound.

South Africa grafted its way into the game with much of the work channelled through Everton star Pienaar. The playmaker seemed to transform the home side into a dangerous-looking outfit whenever he had the ball.

Mexico's Marquez's runs into midfield robbed his side of a fourth defender, allowing South Africa's counterattacks to become increasingly dangerous.

Defence remained a concern for the home side as Mexico continued to probe. Arsenal starlet Carlos Vela dinked a chip into the box for Guillermo Franco, but was brilliantly denied by a point blank Khune save. Moments later, Vela fizzed a shot across South Africa's goal.

Vela looked to have finally opened the scoring, but was called offside after finishing from a corner. Franco then flashed a header over from Dos Santos's free kick.

Full-back Sibuniso Gaxa then nearly forced a goal on the other end of the pitch, sparking a flurry of corners for the hosts who asked questions of the short Mexican 'keeper Oscar Perez.

South Africa: 1 (S Tshabalala 55')

Mexico: 1 (R Marquez 79')

Tags: sport, football, world-cup, mexico, south-africa

First posted June 12, 2010 02:14:00

Recent Results

  • Japan 1 Cameroon 0
  • Netherlands 2 Denmark 0
  • Germany 4 Australia 0


Upcoming Fixtures

  • Italy vs. Paraguay Tuesday, 15/06/2010 at 04:30AM
  • New Zealand vs. Slovakia Tuesday, 15/06/2010 at 09:30PM
  • Ivory Coast vs. Portugal Wednesday, 16/06/2010 at 12:00AM



Can the Socceroos recover from their German humiliation and beat Ghana?

Of course - they have that diehard spirit
No forwards, no backs, no Cahill - no chance
Maybe - but I wouldn't bet my house on it

Results and previous polls

  1. Birds in flight as Lake Eyre comes to life again. Brimming with life

    Seldom do flooding rains reach Lake Eyre, but it has now happened two years in a row.

  2. World Cup 2010 Special coverage

    The ABC brings you news, interviews, video and more as the Aussies chase glory in South Africa.

  3. Hewitt tops Federer at Halle Shock win

    Lleyton Hewitt becomes only the second man to beat Roger Federer on grass since 2002.

  4. Queen's Birthday honours for Roy and HG Video 'Dream come true'

    Roy and HG say now they're on the Queen's Birthday list, they realise what an honour it is.