Kick Off: Wednesday, June 16, 2010. 19:30 CET
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
After opening up the World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Mexico in a match that much of the remainder of the tournament has struggled to live up to, South Africa will aim to enhance their chances of qualification for the last 16 phase by defeating stuffy Uruguay in their second Group A encounter.
By no means did Bafana Bafana find their opening bow plain sailing. Weighed down by a burden of public expectation, Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side struggled for form in the opening half. Mexico pushed forward aggressively, but because of a combination of poor finishing and fine goalkeeping from Itumeleng Khune, the game was goalless at the break. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s opening goal remains one of the best strikes of the tournament to date, but it was not enough to claim the win as the Americans scrambled a late leveller.
South Africa are still very much in the hunt for qualification, and the squad is in upbeat mood. “We have two games [remaining] in our group, they are both very important,” Khune said, according to FIFA’s official website. “We respect both of them, but I know we can beat them. We played well against Mexico and we could have won the match, but it didn’t happen. Our goal is to go to the knockout stages, and from there, anything can happen.”
Bafana, just a few months before the competition began, felt as though they could be whipping boys, but the reappointment of their Brazilian coach seems to have galvanised the team, helping to set them up for a tilt at the last 16, and who knows, maybe more.
Anyone For Tennis?
The heyday of two-time world champions Uruguay may be 60 years in the past, but that has not stopped the Celeste dreaming of glory in South Africa, and it has not prevented the population of the river-bound South American state demanding knock-out action for their side.
Such aspirations came a step closer for the Uruguayans after they opened up their campaign with a stale 0-0 draw against France. The Celeste threatened at times, Diego Forlan of all people tugging a very presentable second half chance wide, but on the whole neither side was especially committal, seemingly happy to settle for a point. Certainly, Oscar Tabarez’s outfit were delighted to gain something after Nicolas Lodeiro was sent-off, forcing his side to withstand late pressure.
The defensive organisation of Uruguay, which had been so prominent during their qualification campaign, again came to the fore, helping them withstand the late onslaught and giving the Celeste renewed hope that a last 16 place remains entirely possible.
“We had a couple of chances, but we ran and played more tennis [than football],” Forlan told the press, considering the fixture against les Bleus. A lack of Uruguayan pedigree at the racquet sport suggests they need to get back to playing the 'Beautiful Game', though the Celeste won’t care how three points are accrued come Wednesday.
On paper, Uruguay should win, and that is borne out by the Castrol World Cup Predictor, which suggests the South Americans have a 47 per cent chance of picking up maximum points, an outcome that would carry them very close to the latter stages.
DREW 1-1 (h) Mexico (World Cup, June 11)
WIN 1-0 (h) Denmark (Friendly, June 5)
WIN 5-0 (h) Guatemala (Friendly, May 31)
WIN 2-1 (h) Colombia (Friendly, May 27)
DREW 1-1 (h) Bulgaria (Friendly, May 24)
DREW 0-0 (n) France (World Cup, June 11)
WON 4-1 (h) Israel (Friendly, May 26)
WON 3-1 (a) Switzerland (Friendly, March 3)
DREW 1-1 (h) Costa Rica (World Cup playoff, November 18)
WON 1-0 (a) Costa Rica (World Cup playoff, November 14)
Everton star Steven Pienaar has admitted that he is tired, but that won’t stop him from featuring in the heart of Bafana’s midfield.
Carlos Alberto Pereira is in the fortunate position of having a full complement of players to select from, and there is little reason to switch his squad about greatly after a positive showing on Friday.
Probable Starting XI: Khune; Gaxa, Khumalo, Mokoena, Thwala; Letsholonyane, Dikgacoi; Modise, Pienaar, Tshabalala; Mphela
Walter Gargano was a shock omission from the squad that played France, and it could be that the playmaker is reintroduced into the fold for the Celeste come Wednesday. They could certainly use a little more invention in the middle of the pitch, but Oscar Tabarez has hinted that he will instead use Forlan in a withdrawn role behind Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani.
Nicolas Lodeiro is suspended after seeing red against les Bleus.
Probable Starting XI: Muslera; Lugano, Godin, Victorino; Pereira, Perez, Rios, Pereira; Forlan; Suarez, Cavani
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Siphiwe Tshabalala was a name largely unknown outside of South Africa prior to the World Cup’s opening game. The 25-year-old Kaizer Chiefs midfielder introduced himself to the world in a spectacular fashion, completing a flowing counterattack with a stunning finish into the very top corner of the Mexican net. Aside from the goal, the left-sided player looked one of Bafana’s primary threats from open play and is sure to test the Celeste.
Diego Godin was rock solid against France in the opening game, which was just as well, because centre-back partner and captain Diego Lugano made some dreadfully poor errors. The Villarreal man will know that if he remains on top of his game, the South Africans will find it very difficult to break the Celeste down, especially if Lugano can regain his usually sure footing.
Buoyant after their opening day draw, South Africa will have the confidence to once again match a side seemingly superior to them on paper. Uruguay will offer far more defensive discipline than the Mexicans did, and the Celeste are also liable to be a good deal more lethal in front of goal. However, the South Americans will not be so attacking in their approach, giving Bafana an opening in which to stamp their enthusiasm on the game. Back by a home crowd, this could well be Group A’s third successive draw.
South Africa 1-1 Uruguay
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