After the gala opening ceremony at Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, Mexico kicked off against South Africa. "Bafana Bafana," although supported by over 80,000 spectators and playing on home turf, started as underdogs against the 2009 CONCACAF champions. South Africa played in their traditional yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks, while the Mexicans donned their new dark green kit. Just to avoid defeat would have been a good result for South Africa and they did just that, managing a 1-1 draw with Mexico after taking a surprise lead.
Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan got the match underway, with Mexico taking the kick-off. The Mexicans started brightly, playing in their usual manner. They maintained possession of the ball, playing regular short passes to work on the patience of the South Africans. In the first few minutes, they tested the South African's defence with some good crosses outside of the penalty area.
South Africa settled after the opening ten minutes and was able to interrupt the smooth flow of the Mexicans, even though the CONCACAF champions dominated ball possession. South Africa managed to carve out a couple of good chances in the first half. However, at the end of the first half the game was goalless despite the chances created by either side.
In the second half, South Africa started more positively and there was more balance in the flow of play. The Mexicans played a higher defensive line as they searched for the opening goal. However, their high defensive line left them vulnerable to a counter-attack. In the 55th minute of the game, Siphiwe Tshabalala exploited this vulnerability with a defence-splitting run on a swift counter-attack that started just after the halfway line. His clinical strike at the end of that run beat goalkeeper Oscar Perez from the left side of the penalty area to hit the corner of the net; South Africa had a surprising 1-0 lead.
Bafana Bafana coach Alberto Parreira adopted a defensive posture at that point, using the counter-attack and getting several players behind the ball when Mexico was in possession. The Mexicans found it difficult to break through and coach Javier Aguirre sought to get inspiration by introducing veteran striker Cuatemoc Blanco in the latter stages of the match. Blanco struck took the corner that eventually resulted in a Mexican equalizer. In the 79th minute, defender Rafael Marquez controlled the ball just outside the goal area and placed his shot past Itumeleng Khune in goal to shake the onion bag.
While the Mexicans pressed for the winner, South Africa came close to victory from a counter-attack that was similar to Tshabalala's opening. This time, midfielder Katlego Mphela struck the upright after beating Oscar Perez. Mexico dominated possession 65% - 35% and had more shots on goal than the home side. However, that domination did not translate to victory. In the end, it was a far result for both teams in a match contested in the right spirit. The Uzbekistan referee did not have to make any controversial calls and he showed only four yellow cards - two to each side.
Both sides would require better defensive work and finishing while South Africa should be concerned about their ball possession. Nevertheless, this result ensured that Mexico and South Africa would have a chance of qualifying in their final group matches of Group A.
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