SO THAT’S THE FIRST GAME ofÂ World Cup 2010 in South Africa done and dusted. Oh, how close the Bafana Bafana were to sneaking a morale-boosting win at the end there…
Mexico were dominant in the first half, South Africa came back after the break and took the lead with a superlative strike from midfiedler Siphiwe Tshabalala but the Mexicans weren’tÂ to be outdone and grabbed a well-deserved equaliser through defender Rafael Marques’s cool finish.
If you’re just joining us, read on for a minute-by-minute report of how the match unfolded in Johannesburg.
1602 GMT: South Africa’s players look a little disheartened at the final whistle after Mphela’s late effort came back off the post – but what a crackerjack of a game to start the tournament. Another of my AFP colleagues in Mexico City Henry Orrego says Mexico’s equaliser was met with an explosion of joy in Zocalo Square, where an estimated 30,000 people had gathered to watch the game.
90+3 mins: FULL-TIME – South Africa 1 Mexico 1.
90 mins: Katlego Mphela is in the clear here and bearing down on the Mexican goal – he controls it with his head and then deftly knocks it past the onrushing ‘keeper but it rebounds agonisingly off the outside of the post.
88 mins: Giovani down the right, cuts inside and passes to Cuauhtemoc Blanco but his shot is charged down.
83 mins: My AFP colleague Leticia Pineda in Mexico City tells meÂ the fansÂ are still confident of victory, and cannot believe all the chances they failed to convert in the first-half. “They are playing really well but they just need to convert their chances,” said Carlos Blanco.”That is rubbish,” snaps his girlfriend Silvia Martinez. “They always freeze whenever they are in front of goal. They are very inexperienced and a few of them are not very smart,” she says.
78 mins: GOAL! 1-1 Mexico have equalised. Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez comes in at the back post to knock an inswinging cross from the left past Khune in the South African goal.
69Â mins: South Africa’s Siboniso Gaxa is appealing for a penalty as he goes down when through on goal. Minimal contact from Francisco Rodriguez though and the referee waves away his protests.
68 mins: Mexico’s Carlos Vela has been replaced by Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Terrible challenge from substitute Tsepo Masilela there.
62 mins: Many neutral observers will be happy to see the underdogs of South Africa go ahead – this has to be good for the tournament. But hold on – the host’s ‘keeper Khune is into the action again as he tip Giovani’s goalbound shot over the crossbar.
59 mins: Whoa! What a way to get the World Cup up and runnning – that was a real rocket fromÂ Tshabalala of South African clubÂ Kaizer Chiefs to give the Rainbow Nation the lead.
54 mins: GOAL! 1-0 to South Africa. Totally against the run of playÂ SiphiweTshabalala slams it past Oscar Perez to send the host nation’s fans into raptures.
48 mins: Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez strokes it around at the back as Mexico look to dominate possession in the early minutes of the second period.
46 mins: And the second half get under way – South Africa were lucky to get to the break all level. It’s seven tournaments since the host nation lost the opening game so they’ll be hoping they can preserve that record. South Africa have made a change at left-back where Tsepo Masilela replaces Lucas Thwala.
45 mins: HALF-TIME – South Africa 0 Mexico 0
42 mins:Â The decibel levels from the vuvuzelas are really cranking up now. Perez throws himself at aÂ corner, but gets nowhere near it. Lucklily for him, the ball bounces away to safety.
37 mins: Goal disallowed for Mexico. Corner from the left and a flick on finds Vela at the far post who thrashes it in on the line. But replays show he was half a yard offside.
33 mins: Vela chips a delightful little ball into Franco in the box and the West Ham man has his shot well-saved by the outstretched right armÂ of the onrushing Khune.
31 mins: Pienaar popping up everywhere now – a break down the left sees him try to whip a cross in but it’s blocked by the first defender.
23Â mins: AFP correspondent Leticia Pineda tells me thousands of football fans have gathered in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square to cheer on their side ahead of their match against the host nation South Africa. “We are going to win 3-1.Â This is going to be Mexico’s World Cup,” says Rafael LÃ³pez, as he grabs his green team shirt.
19 mins – YELLOW CARD! Mexico’s Efrain Juarez rather harshly booked for what was adjudjed a handball. Giovani sends a powerful shot flying over from 30 yards.
18 mins: First sight of goal for South Africa – Pienaar lines up a free-kick twenty five yards out but curls it miles over.
15 mins: Mexico’s Franco sends a free header form a corner on the right flying over the crossbar – should have done better.
12 mins: Mexico’s ‘keeper Oscar Perez comes rushing out of his goal to blast the ball into the stands before forward striker Katlego Mphela can get to it.
1412 GMT: Giovani has been impressive – it’s all Mexico so far and the Galatasary forward is at the hub of things for Javier Aguirre’s side.
1408 GMT: What a chance for Mexico – the ball is swung in from the right, goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune can only knock it down to Giovani Dos Santos and his shot from six yards is deflected behind off a diving defender.
1405 GMT: AND WE’RE OFF – the referee blows the whistle and the World Cup 2010 in South Africa is under way.
1403 GMT: The 94,000 capacity stadium – designed to look like a calabash or African cooking pot – is a sea of yellow as the sound of vuvuzelas reverberates around it’s walls. Kick-off is a just a couple of minutes away.
1358 GMT: Current South African president Jacob Zuma joins Blatter on the pitch to shake hands with both sets of players as the national anthems are played.
1355 GMT: Fifa president Sepp Blatter is giving a speech minutes before kick-off in Johannesburg. He acknowledges the role of former South African president Nelson Mandela in bringing the tournament to African soil for the first time, saying “the spirit of Mandela is in Soccer City.”
1350 GMT: Fans of the English Premier League will note it will have several representatives in this game: South Africa boast Steven Pienaar, Everton’s diminutive schemer, fellow midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi of Fulham and captain and defender Aaron Mokoena of Portsmouth. Mexico can name West Ham’s veteran 33-year-old striker Guillermo Franco and the rather more youthful 21-year-old Carlos Vela of Arsenal in their starting line-up.
1331 GMT: The players are out and warming up and our reporter John Weaver down at pitchside tells me there’s a deafening racket like a vast swarm of angry bees from thousands of vuvuzelas as the Bafana Bafana fans crank up the noise inside the stadium.
1326 GMT: South Africa are competing in only their third World Cup, the last two being at France in 1998 and Korea/Japan in 2002, while Mexico are making their 14th appearance at the 19th edition of the showpiece event. Kick-off is fast approaching at 1400 GMT.
1320 GMT: The team line-ups are out. Bit of a surprise to see the hosts’ towering defender Matthew Booth stuck on the bench.
South Africa: Khune, Gaxa, Mokoena, Thwala, Khumalo, Tshabalala, Pienaar, Modise, Letsholonyane, Dikgacoi, Mphela. Subs: Josephs, Masilela, Ngcongca, Sibaya, Davids, Booth, Parker, Nomvethe, Moriri, Sangweni, Walters, Khuboni.
Mexico: Perez, Rodriguez, Aguilar, Osorio, Salcido, Torrado, Marquez, Juarez, Vela, Franco, Giovani. Subs: Ochoa, Barrera, Castro, Blanco, Hernandez, Moreno, Guardado, Magallon, Torres, Bautista, Medina, Michel.
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
SO, HERE WE GO FOLKS – it’s what you’ve all been waiting for. The opening game of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa is just under one hour away, with the hosts poised to take on Mexico at the iconic Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.
We’ve had the colourful opening ceremony celebrating Africa, which featured R Kelly and Nigerian singer Femi Kuti along with the Soweto Spiritual Singers, but now it’s time for the footballing talent to do their bit.
The stadium is filling up with fans decked out in the yellow shirts of the Bafana Bafana, the nickname for the South African national side, drowning out scores of sombrero-wearing Mexican supporters with their trumpet-like vuvuzelas.