Siphiwe Tshabalala's wondergoal looked set to give the hosts the perfect start...
South Africa were denied a famous opening day win in World Cup Group A, Mexico's Rafael Marquez securing a 1-1 draw after Siphiwe Tshabalala's stunning 53rd minute opener.
After a spectacular opening ceremony and welcoming messages from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and South African president Jacob Zuma, the 2010 World Cup kicked off to the excitable sound of the vuvuzelas brought to the game by a colourful capacity crowd at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
In the opening minutes the hosts were carved open as the adventurous Mexicans forced their way into the South Africa box and when keeper Itumeleng Khune spilt a cross, Giovani dos Santos was superbly blocked by Aaron Mokoena as he looked set to tap into the empty net.
It was a real let off for the home side, but the Mexicans continued to knock the ball about with freedom.
Steven Pienaar could well have become the first player booked in the tournament when he was penalised for a high foot on Rafael Marquez as they contested a bouncing ball, but the referee showed leniency. From the resulting move Mexico earned a corner and Guillermo Franco was allowed a free header, but he failed to keep his effort down and Bafana Bafana were again able to breathe a sigh of relief.
South Africa’s first move of real momentum was broken up when Siphiwe Tshabalala was held back by Carlos Salcido, earning the hosts a free-kick, but Pienaar’s 30-yard effort went well over the bar.
The first booking of the World Cup came when Efrain Juarez was penalised for handball and then failed to retreat when referee Ravshan Irmatov attempted to allow the home side to take the set piece. But within seconds Mexico were back on the attack and Giovani unleashed a fantastic left-footed shot which just cleared the bar with Khune scrambling across.
South Africa again showed clever build up play in the 23rd minute, but Katlego Mphela’s cross was smothered at the second attempt by Oscar Perez.
After Kagisho Dikgacoi was booked for a clumsy foul on Giovani, Bafana went back to attacking the left side of El Tri’s defence, Pienaar twice being blocked off when getting into a good crossing position.
But Mexico continued to dominate possession, and patient build-up play led to Carlos Vela chipping in a neat pass to Franco, who held off his marker and got a shot in on goal, but Khune’s strong right hand just managed to keep the ball out.
Within minutes Mexico were again attacking down the right, but Vela’s cross-shot went beyond the far post with no black shirts onrushing to pick up the scraps.
El Tri continued to press, and Bongani Khumalo was just about able to block a Giovani shot over the bar to concede a corner from which the game’s first big talking point emanated.
A dangerous flag-kick was swung in, and with Khune coming into no-man’s land, the ball was flicked on to Vela at the back post, but his tap-in was fruitless as the offside flag was up due to the goalkeeper’s advanced position beyond the Mexico striker.
This still didn’t stop the men in black though, as Franco got a header in ahead of Khumalo but couldn’t guide it towards goal. Siboniso Gaxa was able to counter though, winning Bafana a corner which escaped the attention of Perez and just cleared Dikgacoi at the far post.
South Africa’s best chance came on 44 minutes when Tshabalala swung in a magnificent left-foot cross, but Mphela couldn’t quite grow enough to head home. Within a minute Dikgacoi was able to get his head to a deep cross, but couldn’t direct the ball on target.
After an even opening to the second half, Bafana scored a sensational opening goal.
With the Mexico backline stretched, the marauding Siphiwe Tshabalala who strode onto the ball with real purpose on the left and unleashed a magnificent left-footed strike into the top right hand corner of the goal to send the home crowd into raptures.
Suddenly there was more belief about Bafana’s play, but also more purpose on display from the Mexicans, and it was they who could easily have struck the next goal as Giovani whipped in a fierce left foot shot which was sensationally tipped over the bar by Khune.
As Carlos Alberto Parreira’s charges bolstered their defence by bringing the midfield in tighter, Mexico continued to lack a cutting edge. And it could easily have been 2-0 when Teko Modise side-footed wide when unmarked with plenty of time to shoot.
Javier Aguirre introduced national legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco for Vela as he looked to provide his team with a greater threat close to goal.
Modise then went down under pressure from Francisco Rodriguez as he attempted to get a right-footed shot away on one of Bafana’s breakaways as the visitors continued to boss most of the possession.
After the introduction of Javi Hernandez for Franco, the game seemed to take on a wider feel as Mexico looked to stretch the play. But Bafana again looked dangerous on the break as Blanco’s heavy first touch gifted possession to Tshabalala and his cross-field pass found Modise in space, but his cross was overhit.
On 79 minutes, Mexico hit a deserved equaliser when a cross from the left was floated in and Mokoena kept three forwards onside, allowing Rafael Marquez time and space to fire a shot between the near post and goalkeeper Khune.
The goal took the sting out of the vuvuzela sound from the home crowd ever so slightly as their side were now handed the task of regaining the lead.
Khumalo was forced to make an excellent block on substitute Hernandez as El Tri found space in between the lines of Bafana defence in the closing 10 minutes, the hosts now holding on to the 1-1 scoreline to some extent.
But it was South Africa who came closest to winning it in the closing seconds as Katlego Mphela broke through, but he couldn’t quite get the ball under control and his left-foot shot came cannoning back off the foot of the near post with Perez beaten.Become a fan of Goal.com International on Facebook! Just click onto Facebook.com/Goal to join the beautiful game's leading fan community...