South Africa 1 Mexico 1

South Africa: Khune; Gaxa, Khumalo, Mokoena, Thwala; Dikgacoi, Letsholonyane; Modise, Pienaar, Tshabalala; Mphela

Mexico: Perez; Aguilar, Osorio, Rodriguez, Salcido; Marquez, Torrado, Juarez; dos Santos, Franco, Vela

The 2010 World Cup got away to a dramatic start with an intriguing game between the hosts and Javier Aguirre’s Mexico which saw the Bafana Bafana take the lead through an excellent Siphiwe Tshabalala strike before being pegged back by an unmarked Rafael Marquez just eleven minutes short of the final whistle.

Lining up in their usual adventurous 3-4-3 formation, Mexico had the best of the first half, dominating territory and possession and unfortunate not to go into the break with the lead. Carlos Salcido and Paul Aguilar, the Mexican full-backs, were instrumental to exercising their team’s authority in the early stages, getting forward to such an extent that the shape of Aguirre’s side occasionally resembled a 3-2-5 in the advanced areas of the field.

Guillermo Franco and Giovanni dos Santos (who had some success exploiting South Africa’s weakness at left-back) both went close for El Tri, and Carlos Vela even had the ball in the net before having his goal ruled out for offside, but South Africa managed to hold out until half-time through a mixture of last-ditch defending and good fortune.

Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side emerged from the interval with greater intent and an increased willingness to get forward, turning what had been a cautious 4-2-3-1 in the first half into a greater attacking weapon, an attitude which eventually resulted in Tshabalala’s goal at the end of a glorious counter-attacking move ten minutes into the second period.

However, Aguirre brought on both Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Javier Hernandez to bolster his attacking options as Mexico looked to hit back, and the Bafana Bafana defence was put under increasing pressure during the last twenty minutes. Eventually it was South Africa’s lax marking which put paid to the dreams their fans had of an opening game victory, as Rafael Marquez was left to his own devices at the back post where he had enough time to control the ball before placing it beyond Itumeleng Khune from close range.

Despite some late chances for the home side, Katlego Mphela hitting the post in the dying minutes, 1-1 it remained to leave both teams with the feeling that two points had been lost. That said, both managers will have come away from the game knowing exactly what to work on with their players ahead of their final two group fixtures a should be hopeful of producing more complete performances against France and Uruguay.

The Equaliser’s Man of the Match:

Giovanni dos Santos (Mexico) – The Tottenham Hotspur youngster was bright all game, displaying great intelligence and good technical ability throughout. Tested Khune on several occasions and was at the heart of much of Mexico’s attacking play.