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South Africa 1-1 Mexico Opening Match of World Cup 2010

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The much anticipated World Cup 2010 is finally here to embrace all of us! Before I get to my take on the opening match proper, I’ll take time to explain a little about the saying “Out with the old, in with the new”. Before I started to watch the match, I switched on my modern LCD TV, looking forward to watch the opening match between hosts South Africa and Mexico in comfort. However, I looked in horror as the complementary cable TV subscription that I have got cruelly jam the channel that is supposed to broadcast the World Cup matches. What to do? It is complementary after all. But I almost broke down as I was about to miss the World Cup. But then, I remember about the old, decades old small TV that is lying somewhere at the corner of the house, being ignored in favor of the sexier, sleeker LCD TV. Immediately I switched on that TV, praying so hard that it has a good reception, and that it is still working in the first place. Thank God or whoever is up there as the TV does work and it was about the start of the match. Moral of the story? Do not forget the seemingly old and outdated stuff that you have. Those are the very things which would help you immensely when you are faced with massive difficulties, just like what I had experienced. So back to the match, it was the opening match between the hosts South Africa and Mexico. It ended in a 1-1 stalemate in the lively full house Soccer City stadium.

The match started with Mexico attacking so aggressively. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s because of the fact that the Mexican players were wearing their black colored kits, and thus at the start of the match, they were as slick as the oil in the Gulf of Mexico. They really penetrated the South African defense and creating chances early on.

The hosts South Africa on the other hand seemed to be either overwhelmed by the occasion or perhaps they were really overwhelmed by the massive pressure when everyone inside the stadium, as well as the millions or even billions watching at home or elsewhere on TV or anything of that sort are fixed on them. Everyone wants to see how the hosts fare, and how they start their World Cup campaign and to fulfill the very first hurdle in the tournament, which is to avoid becoming the very first World Cup hosts to be knocked out in the Group Stage. I would say the way they started the match is just like how we flunk really badly in video games and/or arcade games when there are so many people looking at the way we play, and to be able to play really well when everyone’s gone.

One Mexican player that has taken little time to show the world how talented he really is after such a roller-coaster season in which he was sent on loan to Ipswich from his club Tottenham. The way he waltzed through the pitch dazzling and dizzying the South African defenders, as well as the hairstyle and hairband, caused me to mistake him for Ronaldinho in 2005-06. Guillermo Franco also did quite well as a targetman getting the end of crosses and corner kicks, but they didn’t manage to score.

After the first 30 minutes, South Africa increasingly settled into the game, but it was still insufficient as there was simply no way through for them and that their passes were still disarrayed. In the first half, the hosts were really pinned back by the slick and silky skilled Mexicans and the possession at one time was at 61% for Mexico. The half ended with Mexico creating good chances but they failed to take it except for when Carlos Vela managed to score but it was correctly chalked offside. Looking at how both sides shoot the ball way over the bar, it was perhaps safe to say that both teams were saved by the much criticized Jabulani ball in this half. Personally, I have two balls at home. One is  the Jabulani, and one is another type. I tested both balls, and realized that Jabulani does bounce and fly around much easier and much further than the other ball.

The second half started where the first one left off, but at the 55th minute, South Africa managed to launch a very swift counter-attacking motion totally against the run of play which culminated in South African Thsabalala scoring a wonderful goal to cap the swift attacking move off. From this moment onwards, Mexico seemed to be so shaken by that swift goal and for a good twenty minutes or so, their play resembles how the gameplay works for the later versions of the PES (Winning Eleven Game). Perhaps it was also because of the deafening and buzzing Vuvuzelas in the stadium, in which a family member in the house complained about the sound, and the Mexicans might have been disturbed as well by the continuing sound.  Well, Don’t get me wrong, perhaps I am the one being bad in the PES games, but to describe how Mexico played for the period of time, it’s just like when you try to make a good through pass to your attacker who is perfectly placed to make a good run to receive the pass, and suddenly, for reasons unknown, the computer’s defender jumps like a leopard and stops the ball and thus taking possession to launch a counter-attack. It happens all the time, and that’s what happened to Mexico. South Africa even nearly managed to score the second and arguably the killer goal. However, thanks to the fact that South Africa didn’t manage to kill the game off, and also thanks to a masterstroke substitution by Mexico’s manager Javier Aguirre just after the hosts’ goal. Right after the goal, Carlos Vela was substituted with Cuauhtemoc Blanco, a 37 year old Mexican legend.

The move seemed to be puzzling as Blanco looks quite out of shape, and he doesn’t move really much, and he looks really tired and unfit. But that’s where the masterstroke was. Mexico was in a disarray, and an influential figure was urgently needed to restore order and morale on the pitch, and entered Blanco to do just that. Cameras in the match managed to show how Blanco started to bark instructions to the rest of the players right after he entered the pitch. Everything takes time, and Mexico to calm themselves also needs time. But slowly but surely, they managed to return to their silky and slick play from the first half. Blanco’s effects on the Mexican team also substantiates my earlier argument about how a team needs a pseudo-manager to calm and spur the team on when the tough gets going and the going gets tough. (the previous post about Michael Ballack’s absence in the German squad). Thus, judging from how Blanco “resurrected” Mexico that dangerously faded away shows how Germany must be fretting over how they are missing that pseudo-manager figure in their squad.

True enough, the revitalization of the Mexicans culminated in an equalizer on the 79th minute. At this time, the Mexicans were still a bit shaky, but they won a corner. Cuauhtemoc Blanco united with Giovani dos Santos in an inter-generation link play from the corner, and the youngster curled a very beautiful pass to the awaiting Rafael Marquez, and largely no thanks to the sparse South African defense in the penalty area, Marquez had all the time in his world to take aim and to slot the ball past Khune, the South African keeper.

The last 10 minutes was also interesting and entertaining as both sides continued to commit to attacking each other to win this game. Mexico further augmented by the Manchester United bound Javier Hernandez while South Africa, perhaps it’s because of a sense of urgency and also because of Mexico committing many players in front, managed to get their chances to attack each other, especially South Africa in the dying minutes of the game through Mphela who almost scored the winner but unfortunately hit the post.

The match ended 1-1 and as far as the hosts are concerned, now they have to grab a victory either against France or Uruguay to ensure that they go through to the next round and void the unwanted distinction as the first host nation knocked out from the Group Stage of the World Cup.

Written by cp

12/06/2010 at 00:36

2 Responses

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  1. I think South Africa would have really earned three points. The performance from Mexico was compared to their game aggainst Italy really poor.

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    12/06/2010 at 02:15

  2. This game was as expected no really exciting, but I was suprised from the good performance of South Africa.

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    12/06/2010 at 02:26

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