June 11, 2010
South Africa draw against Mexico in World Cup opener
The opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Photo courtesy Shine 2010
Bafana Bafana scored the first goal of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ this afternoon, but their curtain-raising match against Mexico ended in an anticlimactic 1-1 draw.
The first 30 minutes of the game saw South Africa on the back foot, but the boys came back strongly in the dying minutes of the first half.
After half-time, the home team’s Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the tournament in the 55th minute, with a brilliant left-foot shot that whizzed past goalkeeper Oscar Perez, but Mexico’s Raphael Marquez also managed to find the back of the net 24 minutes later.
Tshabalala was named man of the match.
The nail-biting clash may have ended in a draw, but fans of both sides are unlikely to have been left disappointed by the charged atmosphere and palpable excitement of the day. South Africans especially can hold their heads high, knowing that their team, ranked 83rd in the world, managed to draw against the side currently ranked 17th.
The game was played at Soccer City in Soweto, in front of an estimated crowd of over 84 000. Millions more watched it on TV.
The stadium was a sea of green, gold and South African flags – although Mexican fans did all they could to make themselves felt despite the omnipresence of blasting vuvuzelas.
South Africa face off against Mexico in the first match 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Photo courtesy Shine 2010
Earlier, the sounds of both countries’ national anthems echoed around the calabash as the teams steeled themselves for the fight ahead.
Just before 16h00, President Jacob Zuma officially opened the World Cup, saying, “Yes, yes, yes, the time for Africa has come, it has arrived. Ke Nako.”
FIFA President Sepp Blatter agreed: “Here we are. The FIFA World Cup™; it’s in Africa ... Congratulations to the African population, to South Africa, for letting us stage this World Cup here.”
Blatter and Zuma both made mention of the absence of former president Nelson Mandela, who was unable to attend after hearing the news that his great-granddaughter, Zenani, had been killed in a car accident.
Blatter paid tribute to the man known as the Father of the Nation, saying, “A dream came true. Even if he is not here tonight, the spirit of Mandela is in Soccer City.”
Zuma conveyed a message from Madiba to the fans at the stadium: “... He had wanted to come to greet you before the start of the match, but he said ‘the game must start, you must enjoy the game’.”
Fans from across the country and around the world certainly did enjoy the game, the first World Cup match to be played on African soil.
Group A of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Photo courtesy Shine 2010