Tag Archives: Mexico

World Cup Daily – International Press

Das Bild (Germany): Germany’s most popular tabloid reacted with glee to Die Mannschaft‘s victory over England. Das Bild proclaimed, “Jungs, we love you!”, a reference to the Jogi Löw’s young side and their phenomenal performance against the Three Lions.

Die Welt (Germany): Jetzt sind Deutschland and England quitt” (Now, Germany and England are even):

Die Welt described Frank Lampard’s controversial effort as ‘revenge for the Wembley goal’, referring of course to Geoff Hurst’s equally contentious strike against West Germany in 1966. In that case, the goal was given when perhaps it should not have been. The broadsheet prints a dizzying and unconventional match report, which emphasises the dream-like quality the result had for German fans.

The Mirror (United Kingdom): “FABIGO”


The Mirror pulled no punches in its evaluation of the defeat. Fabio Capello, they say has to go. The Mirror bemoans the new contract offered to the former Real Madrid manager just before the tournament which, they say, will entitle him to a vast sum in compensation.

The Sun: “Time to go Fabio. Clear off and take your players with you.”

The Sun also subscribes to the idea that the Italian is at fault while also offering partial blame to the players who they say “shamed the shirt”. The Sun argues that England’s results in the Group Stage were indefensible, referring to the 1-0 victory over Slovenia as “scraping through”, despite having praised Capello and England after that particular performance in previous editions.

El Universal (Mexico) : Se van de la peor manera – Un gol que no debió contar abre el camino de la debacle tricolor y la despedida para varios veteranos que no volverán a un Mundial”

“Gone the worst way – A goal that should not have been opened the way for the tricolour’s meltdown and a farwell to several veterans who will never grace the World Cup again.”

The Mexican broadsheet criticises Italian referee, Roberto Rosetti, for allowing Argentina’s opening goal which was shown to be clearly offside. The World Cup ended for Mexico where it had all begun in , Soccer City. El Universal bid its farewell to Blanco, Perez, Torrado and Rafael Marquez and damns the Argentine performance as showing ‘no spectacular football’.

It was an all too familiar end for El Universal. The newspaper drew parallels with Mexico’s demise in 2006, also at the hand of the Albiceleste.

De Telegraaf (Netherlands): Column Cruijff: Chili neemt rol Nederland over

In his regular and always insightful column, Johan Cruyff states that he believes that Chile have taken over the Netherlands’ role as a ‘trendsetter’ of beautiful football. Cruyff lends his ardent support to Marcello Bielsa’s side which he says create more chances than anyone else and entertain more fans than any other side at this World Cup.

Cruyff also considers the new push for technology in football in the wake of yesterday’s events. He firmly believes that goalline video technology is fine but in other instances, such as offside, handball etc, Cruyff firmly believes that technology should be avoided. The former Barcelona manager argues that football is a ‘game of mistakes’ and that placing too much emphasis on video technology would hinter the sport rather than help it.

And finally

The Daily Mail, which in the lead up to England v Germany purveyed a lot of copy offensive to Germans took it a step further in the aftermath of England’s 4-1 defeat to Jogi Löw’s side.

Outspoken, right-wing columnist Richard Littlejohn had this to say:

And finally….again:

Our old friends in the New York Post have been at it again. Following the United States’ 2-1 defeat to Ghana after extra-time, ‘The Post’ has this to say about The Beautiful Game.


Technology debate rekindled in wake of questionable decisions

Two World Cup matches, two flashpoints. The widespread acclaim that greeted the referees at the outset of the 2010 World Cup has well and truly evaporated by now.

This World Cup has seen its share of controversial decisions. Having come back from a two goal deficit, the United States were wrongly denied a winner by referee Koman Coulibaly. The Malian official ruled out Michael Bradley’s late goal for a foul. Video technology would have revealed that no infringement took place in the Slovenian penalty area.

Kaká, one of the stars of world football, was dismissed for an apparent elbow against Côte d’Ivoire. Television replays revealed that Sebastien Lannoy was deceived by the Ivorian winger, Kader Keita. Kaká was suspended as a result of the incorrect decision.

The events of Sunday, June 27 will be impossible to forget for fans of England and Mexico. Frank Lampard’s legitimate goal against Germany, which may have had a profound effect on the outcome, was not given. A simple television replay would have given the referee the information required to make an informed decision. Goal-line technology has long been advocated by a large number of managers at both club and international level. A system similar to the famous Hawkeye technology  used in cricket and tennis matches could be utilised to great effect by FIFA. For some, the solutions are even simpler. Mark Ogden, The Daily Telegraph’s Northern Football Correspondent, shared a rudimentary, yet effective, idea via his Twitter page.

“Sandpit behind the line. If the ball is in, it will stop dead and won’t bounce. Simple.”

The suggestion initially seems laughable. On second look, it appears more sensible than ridiculous. In any case, it marks a marked improvement on incorrect or unfair decisions.

Sepp Blatter’s repeated rejection of calls for television replays are folly. Blatter, who once remarked that “we must never stop the match with videos or monitors to look at what has happened”, is clearly not a fan of other sports. Almost every other major sport has some form of “video referee”. In American football, coaches are given flags. In cases where a questionable decision is made by a the referees or umpires, the coach may throw one of his limited number of challenge flags onto the field and call for the referee’s decision to be ‘sent to the booth’. The match referee then consults the video replay and reevaluates his previous decision.

The apparent infallibility of referees in association football is misguided. As Carlos Tevez wheeled away in jubilation at having scored the opening goal in the Round of 16 match against Mexico, replays on the scoreboard at Soccer City showed how the Argentine was offside when Lionel Messi played the crucial assist to him. The fans, players, coaching staff and officials were instantly given access to a view at what had actually occurred. Mexico’s players were particularly incensed. They, rightly, angrily confronted Roberto Rosetti and his assistant. Having seen their mistake, the officials should have been given the authority to reverse the  decision. They were unable to do this. Mexico, demoralised by the goal, promptly conceded a second through a defensive error which may or may not have been the result of a lapse in concentration stemming from the earlier refereeing error.

The safety and welfare of referees is threatened by their inability to correct their mistakes. Referees have been targeted by tabloid campaigns and, far more worryingly, death threats. In the interest of fairness and in the interest of safety for their referees, FIFA must take positive action towards implementing corrective technology no matter what form that may take.

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.

Round One in Review

The first round of group stage fixtures at the 2010 World Cup is complete. Every team has now taken their World Cup bow in South Africa and we’ve already been left with some intriguing permutations for qualification to the last sixteen. World Cup Daily will now take a look back at this mini-milestone stage of the competition.

Group A:

Group A is a bit different by way of having already completed one game of the second round of fixtures. The result was a potentially crippling one for the Bafana Bafana, as they lost to Uruguay 3-0 while also losing their first choice goalkeeper to suspension. France play Mexico tomorrow with the winner of that game taking a massive step towards the next round. Here is the table as it stands.

Group A MP W D L Pts
Uruguay 2 1 1 0 4
Mexico 1 0 1 0 1
France 1 0 1 0 1
South Africa 2 0 1 1 1

The hosts, South Africa, achieved what may yet be their best result in the competition in the tournament’s opening game against Mexico. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s incredible strike will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it. 1998’s winners France stuttered in a 0-0 stalemate against Uruguay. Although they failed to impress against Les Bleus, Uruguay now control Group A courtesy of their victory over Bafana Bafana in Pretoria this evening. Diego Forlan lead the line with conviction and scored two goals, taking him to the top of the goalscoring standings for the tournament.

The outcome of Mexico v France is key to the future of the group. If there is a winner to that game then the hosts will be all but eliminated and the victor should progress to the last sixteen alongside Uruguay. A draw will throw open a range of possibilities and will ensure an exciting climax, with South Africa’s participation in the World Cup still very much alive.

Group B:

The Republic of Korea and Argentina sit loftily atop Group B at the moment courtesy of victories over Greece and Nigeria respectively. The two sides meet tomorrow in the early kickoff at Soccer City.

The Republic of Korea were comfortable victors of Otto Rehhagel’s Greece. The Euro 2004 champions were both lethargic and sloppy and possessed none of the defensive nous that saw them capture the European Championships six years ago. On the other hand, Korea were excellent. Their captain, Park Ji Sung, has excelled in the playmakers role for South Korea for years and demonstrated his immense capabilities in their 2-0 win.

Lionel Messi was at his dazzling best in the Albiceleste’s 1-0 success over Nigeria. The tight scoreline flattered the Super Eagles and Nigeria will need to improve drastically if they are to have a future in the competition. Nigeria will face elimination from the competition should either South Korea or Argentina win and they are defeated by Greece. Lars Lagerbäck will refuse to accept a group stage exit and Nigeria should get the better of a Greek side devoid of ideas.

Group B MP W D L Pts
South Korea 1 1 0 0 3
Argentina 1 1 0 0 3
Nigeria 1 0 0 1 0
Greece 1 0 0 1 0

Group C:

To everyone’s surprise Slovenia sit in pole position in Group C. They capitalised on England’s 1-1 draw with the United States, beating Algeria 1-0. Slovenia were vulnerable on the flanks, where Ziani was a constant threat. The United States’ Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan could pose similar problems to the Slovenians should they be allowed to transgress deep into Slovenian territory. Slovenia’s goalkeeper Samir Handanovic carried his remarkable Serie A form into the World Cup and will prove a difficult obstacle for Bob Bradley’s side.

The United States themselves were lucky to escape from Rustenberg with a point, Robert Green’s now infamous catastrophy allowing Clint Dempsey to score. USMNT are capable of producing a much superior performance against Slovenia. The Americans’ defensive core of Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit were solid against England, a huge boon considering Onyewu’s terrible recent history of injury. Bob Bradley will need to consolidate that defensive strength with a more potent strike force if the United States are to wrestle command of the group out of Slovenian hands.

England’s performance has been evaluated countless times since that night in Rustenberg. Last minute call-up Jamie Carragher was beaten easily on occassion by the pace of Jozy Altidore and if the rumours of him starting the next game are proven to be correct then John Terry will need to be on top form.

The conundrum of who is the best candidate to partner Wayne Rooney in attack has not yet been solved by Fabio Capello. Emile Heskey’s performance against the United States was bafflingly praised by some pundits in the immediate aftermath of the game. The reality is that Heskey is not a striker of genuine international-quality. Perhaps the best solution for Fabio Capello would be to move new captain Steven Gerrard forward into a support role for Rooney with a four man midfield behind the two.

Group D:

It is no surprise that Germany are the stand out performers in Group D thusfar. Their 4-0 demolition of Australia was founded on individual brilliance from Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski and fantastic distribution and holding from Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger. It will be a great relief to Jogi Löw to see Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski performing so effectively after both had endured difficult seasons for their club sides.

Australia on the other hand seem destined for elimination. They were powerless to prevent a drubbing at the hands of the Germans and to make matters worse their talisman, Tim Cahill, has been suspended. They must now face Ghana, who were better than their 1-0 scoreline indicates.

Stade Rennais’ Asamoah Gyan gave the Black Stars victory over Serbia. The real star performer, however, was Kevin Prince Boateng. The Portsmouth midfielder was busy, creative and determined against the Serbs and if he can continue that form against Australia then Ghana will stand on the brink of qualification for a second successive place in the last sixteen.

Serbia were predestined to be the tournament’s dark horses. They were abject against Ghana. Their celebrated defence was challenged by an under-strength Ghana and it is forgivable to think that they will have even greater difficulty against Germany’s multi-pronged attack.








Group D MP W D L Pts
Germany 1 1 0 0 3
Ghana 1 1 0 0 3
Serbia 1 0 0 1 0
Australia 1 0 0 1 0

Group E:

Holland failed to reach their potential against Denmark but still managed to escape with a comfortable 2-0 victory. The return of winger Arjen Robben will only add further strength to their challenge and they may yet become the swaggering champions that a large section of the world’s observers reckon they were born to become. The revelation of the game against Denmark was Eljero Elia. The young Ajax winger replaced Rafael van der Vaart and made an immediate impact. His energy and innate skill were clear to see and further appearances for the youngster are almost a certainty now.

Japan were everything their reputation told us they were. They were organised. They were boring. And they numbed Cameroon into submission. Keisuke Honda’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory over the Lions. They will not be so fortunate against Holland.

Cameroon’s performance was toothless (pardon the pun). Samuel Eto’o was the only player to emerge with any credit and even he seemed powerless to prevent Japan from hanging on to a clean sheet and a victory. Cameroon should improve against Denmark, they have too many players of high quality not to. A victory is required. Anything less may spell an embarrassing early exit.

Group E MP W D L Pts
Netherlands 1 1 0 0 3
Japan 1 1 0 0 3
Cameroon 1 0 0 1 0
Denmark 1 0 0 1 0

Group F:

Paraguay 1 0 1 0 1
Slovakia 1 0 1 0 1
Italy 1 0 1 0 1
New Zealand 1 0 1 0 1

The immediately striking aspect of your first glance at the Group F table is Italy’s absence from top spot. The World Champions were perhaps the better side against Paraguay but could not convert their superiority into sincere shooting opportunities. If Marcello Lippi insists on keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation then he will need to remove Iaquinta. The Juventus forward was unthreatening throughout the encounter with Paraguay and his place in the starting line-up ahead of Antonio Di Natale is ponderous at best.

Of more immediate concern to ‘gli Azzuri’ is the fitness of Gianluigi Buffon. The decorated goalkeeper has suffered a recurrence of a herniated disc and may play no further part in Italy’s quest to retain the World Cup. Into the breach will step young Federico Marchetti. The Cagliari goalkeeper was a revelation in Serie A this past year and may yet prove to be a worthy replacement to one of the world’s greatest shot-stoppers.

Slovakia controlled the game against New Zealand but concentration lapses ultimately proved to be their undoing. Marek Hamsik, their captain and Vladimir Weiss were stand-out performers against New Zealand and must retain their creative flair if they are to overturn Paraguay as the second side to progress from the group.

There is a feeling that New Zealand have already achieved what they set out to do in drawing with Slovakia. It is unthinkable that they may claim another point against Paraguay or Italy despite their obvious strenghts in defensive organisation.

Group G:

Brazil showed their usual flair but were unable to score more than two goals against North Korea. Robinho and Maicon were the outstanding performers on the night for the Seleçao. They should prove too strong for Portugal, who were terrible against the Côte d’Ivoire, but may yet be tested by the Elephants.

North Korea were the unknown quantity in the ‘Group of Death’. Their star player, Jong Tae Se, garnered a lot of attention for his tears at the national anthems and his subsequent display which culminated in an assist.

Côte d’Ivoire were far more structured than they were in the Cup of African Nations. In Gervinho and Salomon Kalou they have players to supply the now fit Didier Drogba and also to beat fullbacks. If they can achieve a draw against Brazil and proceed to thrash North Korea, then the Brazilians may yet face an unlikely elimination from the World Cup.

Brazil 1 1 0 0 3
Côte d’Ivoire 1 0 1 0 1
Portugal 1 0 1 0 1
North Korea 1 0 0 1 0

Group H:


This group looked to be all about Spain. The European Champions and favourites to lift the World Cup were expected to breeze through this group with minimal fuss. They did not expect to encounter the managerial powerhouse that is Ottmar Hitzfeld and his appropriately strong Switzerland defence. The Swiss demonstrated the frailties within this otherwise exceptional Spain side.

Spain were unable to show the requisite cutting edge and for all of their possession, they mustered very few threatening attempts on goal. They will have a chance at redemption against Honduras, who were disappointing against Chile.

Chile were every bit as entertaining as we were led to believe. Marco Bielsa has created an attacking side with a remarkable flair and creativity to it. The tactical decision to field only three players was not exposed as folly by a blunt Honduras but achieving the same result against Spain may prove to be too difficult a challenge.

Day 1 – World Cup Daily

So the first day of the 2010 World Cup is already ‘in the books’. It was a day that started with news of a tragedy, brought hope and expectations, encapsulated scenes of unbridled joy and frustration. World Cup Daily takes a look at the moments that made Day 1.

Moment of the Day: The game may have finished as a draw, but the immeasurable joy brought about by the electrifying goal scored by Siphiwe Tshabalala must surely rank as one of the finest moments in the tournament’s most recent years. The sumptuous lofted pass offered by team-mate Katlego Mphela allowed Tshabalala to control the ball just inside the penalty area and fire a thunderous left-footed shot high into the far side of the net. The vuvuzelas reached fever pitch as fans of Bafana Bafana believed that they were on the verge of witnessing a historic victory. Unfortunately for them, their hopes were dashed by Rafael Marquez’s equaliser. The moment, however, will live long in the memory.

Questionable Decision of the Day: The opening ceremony was the usual mix of culture, music, dance and dung beetles.

Adidas, creators of the controversial Jabulani football featured in this summer’s World Cup, will be wondering what they did to deserve the criticisms aimed their way in recent weeks. Their misfortune continued today as a giant dung beetle pushed an enormous Jabulani around the field at Soccer City like the inflated lump of excrement the ball itself is said to be. Somewhere a Nike executive was celebrating.

Schadenfreude of the day:

Thierry Henry’s appeal for a handball against Uruguay will have come as some solace to the legions of fans, both in Ireland and elsewhere, who still take issue with the French internationals unpenalised foul against the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup Qualifying Playoff. Should Henry’s unheeded demand for a penalty be seen as deeply ironic (at least in Alanis Morisette’s understanding of the word ‘ironic’)?

The Vuvuzela Award for Irritation of the Day:

People complaining about the vuvuzela. Television networks were inundated with complaints from viewers about the constant,  monotonous hum of the vuvuzela. That didn’t stop the anchors from voicing their objections to the plastic horns themselves. Were the vuvuzelas all that intrusive or are people just too sensitive?

Sepp Blatter Mishap of the Day: That speech before the game. It infuriated the thousands of Twitterers watching the game and presumably those in attendance too. Nobody likes him, but he doesn’t care. Carry on wayward Sepp.

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