Tag Archives: Blanco

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 7

Winners


Irish fans

Yes we are that bitter. And yes, watching France lose and possibly bow out this soon was damn sweet.

Mexico

Took full advantage of France’s apathy to put themselves firmly in the driving seat. A point is all that is required from their game against Uruguay to progress beyond the group stage. With the exception of Germany, the South American teams have played the most attacking and exciting football and Mexico kept up the standard.

Javier Hernández and Cuauhtémoc Blanco

The future and past of Mexican goalscoring talent combined to see off France. The future is bright for  Manchester United’s newest acquisition having now scored eight goals in fourteen appearances for his country while the 37-year-old Blanco added to his legend with a well-taken penalty to seal a famous victory.

Argentina

Repelled a South Korean fightback in style to make it six points from six and should finish the group with the maximum number when they face Greece. Diego Maradona’s men have been impressive without having to go to too much trouble. It’s early days yet and Messi has yet to hit the back of the net but the early signs are good for a team that struggled greatly through the qualifying campaign.

Gonzalo Higuain

A cool, calm and collected hat-trick makes the Real Madrid forward YOUR World Cup top goalscorer.

Greece

Lesson learned. Following the wretched anti-football that led to their demise against South Korea, the 2004 European Champions woke up and took the game to Nigeria. An especially impressive result considering they came from behind to win, scoring their first ever goals in the World Cup finals in the process.

Alexandros Tsorvas

A very lucky boy. Coming out on the winning side should make people forget about his Bruce Grobbelaar-esque goalkeeping that led to Greece conceding the opening goal.

Losers


France

Karma is a bitch. Outclassed and outplayed, the 2006 finalists looked disinterested throughout. Perhaps Raymond Domenech has finally broken his team’s spirit. In any event, France appeared content to let Mexico play and barely put up a fight.

Thierry Henry

And speaking of karma, all the former French captain could do was watch from his designated spot on the bench. Safe home Thierry.

Nigeria

In relative control following an early lead, the Super Eagles were mostly untroubled until one man threw it all away…

Sani Kaita

A moment of utter stupidly from the Nigerian midfielder led to his dismissal and the subsequent Greek revival. It might seem harsh to place the failing of a team on the shoulders of one player, but Kaita’s assault on Vasilis Torosidis cost his team the match and effectively booked their ticket home.

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South Africa 1-1 Mexico

South Africa were denied a dream start to the World Cup by a Rafael Marquez goal just over ten minutes before full time. South Africa had taken the lead courtesy of a thunderous strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala in the 58th minute.

We are finally underway. The hosts battled well from the latter stages of the first half and deserved a draw but may perhaps rue Katlego Mphela’s last minute effort which rebounded away off the upright. They were given the lead courtesy of an early contender for goal of the tournament from Siphiwe Tshabalala. Unfortunately for the 88,000 in attendance, the lax defending which Mexico failed to take advantage of in the first half was to undo their hopes of an historic victory.

Mexico started the game the brighter, dominating possession and setting about creating chances both along the ground and through the air to Guillermo Franco, who perhaps should have scored had he been more precise in the air.

If the enormity of the occassion was affecting Bafana Bafana then goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was not showing it. He displayed fantastic reflexes to deny Franco from close range when the striker was played through on goal by a delightful pass from Arsenal’s Carlos Vela.

Vela looked to have opened the scoring at the first ever African World Cup but his goal was rightly disallowed by the referee’s assistant. The linesman demonstration great presence of mind to spot Vela in an offside position beyond the goalkeeper following a flick on from the corner. Khune embarrassingly misjudging his attempt at a punch clear.

The incident seemed to energise South Africa. As the first half drew to a conclusion Pienaar and Modise began to create rhythm in the South African midfield, before releasing Siphiwe Tshabalala on the left whose cross was narrowly missed by the outstretched Mphela.

After the interval South Africa began to assert an air of dominance and were rewarded in the 55th minute. An exquisite long pass from the deep-lying Katlego Mphela was controlled by Tshabalala before he unleashed a shot from the edge of the penalty area, flying past Oscar Pérez and into the top corner.

South Africa looked set for a glorious day when five minutes later Khune produced another outstanding parry, this time preventing the industrious Giovanni dos Santos from equalizing.

Aguirre played his gambit soon after, introducing veteran attacker Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez in an attempt to wrest control of the game from Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side.

Mexico finally capitalised on slack South African defending from crosses in the 78th minute. Andrés Guardado, who was once again left out of the starting lineup by Javier Aguirre launched a deep cross into the South African penalty area where three Mexicans were waiting to pounce. The ball fell to Barcelona’s Rafael Marquez whose discipline allowed him to take a delicate controlling touch before finishing past the helpless Khune.

The near-constant hum of the vuvuzelas from the 88,000 in attendance instantly silenced.

South Africa nearly achieved one of the greatest results in their history when Khune’s long kick was brought down by Katlego Mphela in the 90th minute. Mphela, Mamelodi Sundowns’ star striker, held-off the challenge of the Mexican defence and slotted the ball beyond the advancing Pérez and onto the post.

Some members of Bafana Bafana were visibly disappointed at the final whistle. Itumeleng Khune and goalscorer Tshabalala among the many wondering what might have been. For the fans, however, the joyful atmosphere supplanted any regrets.

They will no doubt be following Uruguay versus France this evening closely with the intention of going one better than they have against Javier Aguirre’s Mexico.

South Africa 1-1 Mexico

Ke Nako – It Is Time

South Africa v Mexico

Venue: Soccer City, Johannesburg

Date: Friday, 11 June

Time: 15.00 BST (16.00 local)

The hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup enter the tournament’s opening fixture buoyed by recent performances and by the unbridled devotion offered to them by the South African public. Hoping to upset the party will be Javier Aguirre’s Mexico, a side with a strong recent World Cup history and players of genuine pedigree.

When the draw for the World Cup was made the instant reaction was that South Africa would become the first World Cup hosts to fail to progress from the Group Stage. Placed in Group A alongside France (winners of the 1998 World Cup), Uruguay (winners in 1930 and 1950) and tomorrow’s opponents Mexico, many believed that South Africa would struggle to muster even a single point.

That belief, potentially a correct one, still exists in some quarters. However, Bafana Bafana, guided by former World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira come into Friday’s game unbeaten in twelve fixtures, a run stretching back to October 2009. The same pessimism greeted South Africa’s participation in the last summer’s Confederations Cup where they narrowly missed out on Third Place. If South Africa are to enjoy another successful international tournament then achieving a result against a talented Mexican side is an essential prerequisite.

Mexico should prove to be a formidable opposition for the hosts. So adept at controlling possession and tempo, El Tri would

usually look to release their pacy wingers Andrés Guardado and Giovanni dos Santos in a bid to terrorise the South African full-backs. However, Javier Aguirre has surprised many with his selections in recent international friendlies. He has left out Guardado of Deportivo la Coruña, wily veteran Cuauhtémoc Blanco and coveted goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa with varying consequences. The uncertainty surrounding the lineup perhaps revealing that Aguirre is not entirely convinced that El Tri can win games at the World Cup in their conventional 4-4-2/4-3-3 setup.

For all of their skill and competence with the football, Mexico must improve their cutting edge. Against England, they dominated a potential World Cup winning side but were unable to capitalise, losing 3-1. In qualifying, six players were equal top scorers with three goals each.

South Africa have suffered problems with strikers as well. The omission of West Ham United’s Benni McCarthy was not a popular decision. Without a recognisable goal scorer, South Africa will struggle to win the one game that is usually required to qualify for the Round of 16. Step forward, Katlego Mphela. Four goals in three games for the Mamelodi Sundowns striker including goals against strong Columbia and Denmark sides has relaxed criticism of the ponderous decision to leave McCarthy out.

Despite this, Mexico are still favourites for this opening encounter. Under normal circumstances, Mexico should and probably would win this match. These are not normal circumstances. Bafana Bafana have united the Rainbow Nation. When the two teams emerge from the tunnel at Soccer City they will be met with one of the most impassioned crowds yet witnessed at a World Cup. Vuvuzelas, hard-hats, altitude and up to 90,000 fans combined will make any fixture against Parreira’s side a challenge even before kick-off.

This match will tell us a lot about the balance of power in Group A. Should Mexico overwhelm South Africa en route to a comfortable victory then they will be favourites for a place in the Round of 16. If they are stifled by the raucous atmosphere and the combative nature of captain Aaron Mokoena and his side and draw then all attention will refocus on Mexico v Uruguay. If, however, South Africa are able to pull off an upset and win, then there is a genuine opportunity for the host nation to avoid breaking precedent and progress to the next round.

That is the aim of Carlos Alberto Parreira, who informed the media that people must fear his side.

“Everybody has to respect us. We are ready to fight. We respect everybody, but they must also respect us. We will take every game as a final. We will fight in every game.”

Prediction – South Africa 1-2 Mexico