Mexico fight back to draw with South Africa in WC opener | sports | Hindustan Times
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Mexico fight back to draw with South Africa in WC opener

Hosts South Africa almost got a dream start to their World Cup finals campaign today before being held to a 1-1 draw by Mexico in the opening match after Barcelona midfielder Rafael Marquez struck with a late equaliser for the Mexicans, reports Dhiman Sarkar.

sports Updated: Jun 12, 2010 02:41 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Cameroon, Senegal, South Africa. Well, almost. Given that the stalemate wasn't the most predictable outcome, this too can be deemed an upset. Just like Cameroon's shocking Argentina and Senegal doing France in.

Had Katlego Mphela not hit the underside of the upright or Teko Modise not fluffed a couple of chances, the world would have sat up and taken greater notice of the team that loves being called Bafana Bafana (The Boys). They can still do that. "It's all about building from this," said skipper Aaron Mokoena.

If that happens the world will have to get used to names like Siphiwe Tshabalala, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Siboniso Gaxa. Just like we did with the Oman-Biyicks and Milla in 1990 or the Dioufs in 2002.

If the first game of these World Cup finals is talked about, it won’t be for the beautiful game.It could well be for referee Ravshan Irmatov's turning down Giovani dos Santos's first-half goal.

The Galatasaray forward looked to have done everything right, heading home a ball from the left with a South African player rooted on the goalline but the assistant-referee's flag was up. Don’t blame Javier Aguirre's boys for feeling robbed. Perhaps, Irmatov was the most affected by the non-stop blare of vuvuzelas - everyone in in the 84,419 seemed to have one.

Unfazed by the noise , Mexico started strongly. South Africa goalie Itumeleng Khune was forced into an early save and Rafael Marquez drove wide. Khune then had to ward off an attempt by Guillermo Francol but South Africa weathered the storm and forced a couple of corner-kicks.

"We dominated the first half and should have put away the chances," Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said. "It becomes difficult when you start so aggressively but then can't score."

Tshabalala struck on the break, making use of a super digonal pass from Dikgacoi. Making use of space on the right side of the Mexican defence, he cut in and fired an angular delight that nestled into the top corner. The dance of a South Africn quintet again evoked memories of the first matches in Italia 90.

"I won't say we were nervous but definitely a little anxious after that," Aguirre said.

Marquez eased anxieties by staying calm when Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Andres Guaradado worked a short corner before finding the central defender with an aerial ball.

That was the only time the South African backline had complete coordination malfunction. Mokoena, who cleared for the corner, missed Guaradado's aerial ball and the rest of his mates left Marquez unmarked.