Friday, 11 June 2010

Match 1 Review - South Africa v Mexico

South Africa 1 - 1 Mexico [Full-Time]

The first match of the world cup did not disappoint! South Africa put on a good show against a very strong opponent. The Mexicans once again did not make the most of their opportunities in front of goal verifying previous speculation that they are not the most clinical finishers (think back to the friendly against England). Their most lethal player was Giovani Dos Santos (No. 17), a very skillful attacking midfielder who can skip past defenders with ease... reminiscent of Ronaldinho... even his hairstyle :)

The media were talking up the home support being SA's 12th player but if anything I think it was Jabulani (the ball!) which earned that title. There were countless crosses to Aguilar, who in the first half frequently found himself in acres of space down the right side, which were 'overhit'. I think that this was probably due to the lightness of the ball resulting in increased flight. Both sides sent shots from free kicks well over the crossbar. There were also instances when the ball bounced over the heads of players attempting to control a ball on the bounce.

South Africa's best player (despite the spectacular goal from Tshabalala) was Itumeleng Khune, the goal keeper. It was he who kept SA in the game through the jittery start when Bafana Bafana couldn't even string 3 passes together. Had Mexico gone ahead in the first 10 minutes then there would be no coming back. It was Tshabalala who received the Man of the Match award though, for his stunning strike which couldn't have been better placed, landing perfectly in the top right corner of the goal.

The second half was a much improved performance by SA, coach Carlos made a vital substitution, taking Twala off for Masilela, which closed that gaping hole in the left of defence. Bafana Bafana impressed with their quick short passes to shake off their markers and exposed the Mexican defence on more than one occasion. Indeed they had two goal scoring chances which they could have (and probably should have) made more of. But they were not able to hold on to their lead having left 3 Mexicans unmarked on the receiving end of a cross. The ball fell to Marquez who made no mistake with his finish.

Which brings me to the weakest player in the Mexican team. This accolade goes to Oscar Perez, the goal keeper, who looked (atleast from first impressions) far from assured dealing any aerial deliveries, and he was unable to hold on to any ball hit with any kind of venom. Perez also had his upright to thank when he found himself totally flat footed when Mphela slid the ball to his right. We'll have to see if the more renowned keepers (i.e. Casillas, Julio Ceasar, Buffon...) also struggle to hold on to shots and crosses. One thing's for sure, Khune looked more impressive than Perez in this game.

It was pretty obvious that Mexico were the superior side in ability and quality (a fact confirmed with a glance at the Fifa rankings which has Mexico ranked 17th and South Africa in 83rd). South Africa would have accepted the outcome of a draw if offered before the game and that's what they got, so they wouldn't be disheartened and on balance one could say that a draw was a fair result based on proceedings.

Eyes now turn to the second Group A match of the day, between France and Uruguay, due to kick off at 8:30pm in Cape Town. Both South African and Mexican camps will feel that a place in the next round is still within their grasp.

[Photos are courtesy of Getty Images and]

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