The sound of the vuvuzela could be heard as early as 5am as South Africa woke up in anticipation for the first ever world cup to be held on African soil.
Tragically Nelson Mandela’s great granddaughter, Zenani Mandela was killed in a drunk driving accident after coming from the welcoming concert so the great leader could not be present at the first game.
Sepp lead things off with a standard speech and not long after that, the game was under way. South Africa were very nervy in the opening minutes and almost conceded an early goal.
Mexico maintained an early dominance in the game but couldn’t break through. As the half progressed, the Bafana Bafana began to gain composure but still El Tri attacked. Dos Santos was the main culprit and looked dangerous every time he had the ball.
Twice in the first half Franco could have put the Mexicans ahead with unchallenged opportunities with a free header, but he put them over both times.
In the 36th minute, the ball was in the back of the South African net but the goal was correctly ruled offside. As the half died down, South Africa pressured the Mexican goal but both teams went into the dressing rooms goalless.
The second half was a different story as Bafana Bafana showed an attacking intent and spurned on by the crowd started to play with more confidence. One could clearly see the beautiful and effective Brazilian playing style installed into the South African players by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. A great through ball released Tshabalala and he sent an unstoppable shot into the top right corner of the net.
It was a tremendous goal and one that deserved a great dance celebration from Desmond Tutu. South Africa continued to attack and was pressing for more, but a basic defensive error of a corner in the 79th minute gifted Marquez the ball and he calmly shot the ball past Khune.
South Africa had a chance to win it in extra time but Mphela’s shot hit the outside of the post.
A couple of hours later in Cape Town, France met Uruguay. I thought this would be an attacking game with lots of goals as the quality of attack minded players possessed by both nations was very high.
From the outset though, it was obvious that Uruguay were going to play for the draw. Domenech got his tactics wrong or just didn’t care and left two of his most creative players on the bench.
Even without Henry and Malouda, France still maintained the majority of the possession in the first half and had a very good chance to go ahead in the 7th minute but Govou pushed Ribery’s excellent cross out wide.
Uruguay would counter when they could and usually through Forlan who had a stinging shot well saved by Lloris, but for the most part the Lyon keeper wasn’t tested.
In the second half, Uruguay showed more intent but as the match progressed it was calling for the introduction of more creative players. France were getting frustrated and in the 70th minute Henry was introduced at the expense of Anelka. 5 minutes later Malouda came on.
Momentum switched in the favor of France as they attacked in waves, but each one was dealt with by a tenacious Uruguayan defense. In the 80th minute though, Uruguayan substitute Lodeiro was sent off for a very late and rash challenge on Sagna. Even with an extra man, France could not penetrate past the South American back line and the game ended in a draw.
All four teams are on equal points. Group A and who goes through to the knockout stages is still very much up in the air.
There are three games on Saturday. South Korea versus Greece in Port Elizabeth, Nigeria versus Argentina in Jo’Burg and some other game which I can’t remember (which will be previewed in a different post).
Group B action starts with South Korea versus Greece. This is one of the many reasons I love the world cup. Such a random pairing of two nations.
Neither one of these teams is expected to advance to the group stages but it would be foolish to write them off.
Greece won the Euros in ’04 with fantastic team defense and brilliant leadership from the bench from coach Otto Rehhagel but have been major disappointments since then by not qualifying for Germany and going 3 and out in the ‘08 Euros. They still have that same park the bus mentality.
South Korea are an exciting team to watch. They’re incredibly fit and fast but also play with a defensive mindset. They will probably be more attack minded hoping to win and put pressure on Nigeria, a team the South Koreans believe they can get a result against.
Something will have to give in this match and I fear its going to be my mind. Getting up at 4:30am and having to spell the names of the Korean and Greek players is going to blow a fuse in my brain!
TSG Prediction South Korea 1 – Greece 0
The second game in Group B pits world cup favorites Argentina against African powerhouse Nigeria. Both are favorites to advance but in what order can make a real difference further into the competition.
Argentina have possibly the most potent striking force in the competition and an engine behind them that is rivaled by many. It’s their defense though that is suspect not to mention the “brains” behind the operation, their coach Diego Maradona.
A playing genius and a bit of a nutter, a tactical savant he is not; it will be interesting to see how Maradona preps his team before the game. Hopefully it will not be “Don’t you all want to see me running naked through Buenos Aires”.
Nigeria were dealt quite the blow when influential midfielder John Obi Mikel was ruled out of the squad not having full recovered from knee surgery.
The Super Eagles will now rely on Peter Odemwingie who is an electrifying forward capable of scoring some great goals. He will have probably have Yakubu by his side and Bundesliga strike Martins is capable of changing a game from the bench. I would have suspected that Portsmouth attacking midfielder Kanu would come off the bench but he was named Captain so it seems like he’s starting.
Nigeria’s weakness is their defense and hopefully former Swedish coach Lars Lagerback will have them well organized and disciplined. They will need to be in order to stop Messi, Tevez, Higuain and company from running rampant in Jo’Burg.
TSG Prediction Argentina 4 – Nigeria 2