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Friday, June 11, 2010

South Africa VS Mexico >>> Match Previews

Bafana Bafana Takes Centre Stage
The clash of two form teams
With the eyes of the world trained upon the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, the opening match of the FIFA World Cup offers South Africa a unique opportunity to make a statement of intent, both for their own team and for the tournament as a whole.

Team South Africa aka Bafana Bafana will take to the stage after the usual extravagant, drawn out opening ceremony and will find it tough to focus their attention on overcoming their opponents after being part of such a scene. However, buoyed by the sound of around 90,000 vuvuzelas, Carlos Alberto Parreira's men will have the entire nation - perhaps even continent - behind them as they walk out onto the pitch and you can never rule out the benefit of having a '12th man' in the stands.

Coach Parreira boasts all the experience needed to succeed at the highest level, however few have given the South Africans much of a chance of getting out of a group that also includes France and Uruguay. Led by the likes of Steven Pienaar and Aaron Mokoena, Bafana Bafana have, though, been in great form of late. Unbeaten since mid-October, the side have recently beaten Colombia, hammered Guatemala, and overcome Denmark in their warm-up games and have an excellent fourth-placed campaign in the 2009 Confederations Cup (held in South Africa) to draw upon should they need to.

Their opponents, Mexico, have also been on a good run. Unlucky to lose to England after a first-half showing that suggested coach Javier Aguirre will place his emphasis on attacking football, Mexico will have confidence flowing their veins after beating reigning world champions Italy 2-1.

It is something of a turnaround considering that, under Sven-Goran Eriksson, the Mexicans were on the verge of missing out on the tournament altogether, and Aguirre now has the team playing with a freedom that brings out their self-belief. With a mixture of veteran performers like Rafael Marquez and young talent in the form of Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela, they will be a tough proposition for the hosts to overcome.

South Africa player in focus: Katlego Mphela
South Africa left Benni McCarthy out of the squad for a reason and one of them is the form of Mphela. With four goals in his last two starts, the Mamelodi Sundowns striker has made a first-team place his own and, on the back of an incredible goal in the Confederations Cup against Spain, his star is on the rise.

Mexico player in focus: Javier Hernandez
Having just moved to Manchester United in a deal reported to be around £10 million, the spotlight will well and truly be on the young striker. Quick, agile and with a good eye for goal, he has scored seven goals in 12 games for his country. Will need to perform better than he managed in the friendly at Wembley though, if he is to prove his doubters wrong.

Key Battle: Steven Pienaar vs. Efrain Juarez.
Pienaar's form is crucial if South Africa have any hope of getting out of the group and his work on the wing will set up chances for his team-mates. A great season at Everton has raised expectation, but then Juarez's form for UNAM Pumas has also caught the attention. With Juarez also able to play at full-back, his defensive qualities could be key to stopping Pienaar.

This year's opening match is the first ever in Africa and it will be the third opener to feature an African team. On both previous occasions the African sides picked up shocks wins as Cameroon beat holders Argentina 1-0 in 1990 and Senegal beat champions France by the same score in 2002.

South Africa coach Parreira will take charge of a side at his sixth World Cup. Kuwait (1982), United Arab Emirates (1990), Saudi Arabia (1998) and Brazil (1994 and 2006); while Mexico have been sent home in the Second Round stage in the past four World Cup tournaments.

Eight of the last 11 opening matches have produced one or no goals.

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