Emotions are running high for a proud country given 6 years to prepare for the 2010 World Cup. As the country that served an apartheid ban from FIFA until 1992, South Africa has progressed extensively since that year to achieve the unthinkable—they’ve become the first country in Africa to host a FIFA World Cup. The Bafana Bafana hope to avoid becoming the first host team to lose an opener as the lowest FIFA-ranked host in history at 83rd. They must also prove not to be the first team to fail going beyond the group stage of the tournament.
South African Team – AKA: Bafana Bafana
As a team absent from the World Cup since 2002, South Africa kicks off the opening match against Mexico with unfavored statistics against them. In a group against two former World Cup champions, Uruguay, France and a revived Mexican team, Bafana Bafana will have a country behind them to soar beyond expectations.
Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira — Brazilian-born coach with almost 30 years of experience. He’s brought four teams to the World Cup: Kuwait in 1982, United Arab Emirates in 1990, Brazil in 1994 (won) and 2006, and Saudi Arabia in 1998.
Players to watch:
MacBeth Sibaya – Center Mid – Veteran playing in Russian premier
Kagiso Dikgacio – Center Mid – Fulham midfielder
Teko Modise – Right Mid – Golden boy from South Africa’s league.
Steven Pienaar – Left Mid – Everton midfielder, considered their main threat.
Strong defense and midfield with much experience playing abroad.
Too defensive-minded of a midfield with a lacking offense.
Mexico – AKA: El Tri
Los Tricolores have made a complete 180 after suffering under caoch Sven Goran-Eriksson in their run to qualify for South Africa. Since their 5 – 0 Gold Cup win last summer against the US, Mexico has shown great form often being referred to as a darkhorse going into the tournament. Their confidence is high headed into the opener against South Africa after defeating the current World Cup champions, Italy 2-1. El Tri boasts a mixed team of both veterans and a partial youth that won the U-17 World Cup in Peru in 2005.
Coach: Javier Aguirre — AKA: El Vasco is a Mexican-born coach and former Mexican National Team member with over 10 years of coaching experience.
Players to watch:
Giovanni Dos Santos – Left Wing – Member of U-17 World Cup champs in 2005. MVP of Gold Cup in 2009. Former Barcelona player now with Tottenham
Carlos Vela – Right Wing – Member of U-17 World Cup champs in 2005. Arsenal player considered deadly paired with Dos Santos.
Javier (chicharito) Hernandez - Striker – Former member of U-17 World Cup champs in 2005. Became first Mexican to sign with Manchester United in May 2010.
Rafael Marquez - Center Back – Barcelona defensive veteran
Andres Guardado – Left Mid – Wonder boy with Deportivo de La Coruña
Efrain Juarez – Right Wing – Member of U-17 World Cup champs in 2005. Plays in Mexico’s first division with Pumas.
Great on the counter attack. They play quick ball often controlling the game with possession. Their defense is strong and have a history of great goalkeepers.
Often under scrutiny over the team’s ability to finish, Carlos Vela and Dos Santos will have to find the form they once had in 2005 with the U-17 squad. Mexico also has a history of starting well in the tournament, only to fizzle out in the latter stages.
With a country under their wings, Bafana Bafana will definitely have an immense lift on common soil. But the unfamiliarity that that once burdened Mexico with foreign teams or players has now been lifted with most of their starters playing abroad. South Africa may start strong, but the experience and abilities of Mexico will be too much for Bafana Bafana.
Match result – Mexico 3 – South Africa 1