Saturday, December 5, 2009

South Africa to face Mexico in 2010 World Cup opener

HOST nation South Africa will face Mexico in an intriguing and high-energy opening game of the 2010 World Cup.
South Africa is ranked 86th in the world and will find a tough opponent in the world's 15th ranked team on June 11.

On the other hand, it will be able to count on the support of many in the 87,000-capacity Soccer City stadium.

A huge gasp went up from the 3000-strong crowd when Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron decided Mexico would play the opener.

The picking of South Africa's opponent for the opening match was one of the most anticipated moments of the World Cup draw ceremony.

"I don't envy the Mexicans who are going to be subject to 90,000 vuvuzelas,'' said South Africa defender Matthew Booth, referring to the loud horns that Bafana Bafana fans love to use.

Worse was to come for South Africa when France, ranked seventh in the world, was also put in group A. The French will play the often decisive last group game against the hosts.

"Sometimes no comments speak louder than words,'' said Theron, the presenter. Uruguay was the fourth team in the group.

Some of the opening matches have set World Cups off on the right track.

Four years ago, Germany was considered dour and short on attacking flair. After its 4-2 win over Bolivia, the host rode its momentum into the semifinals and finally finished third.

In 2002, the opener was one of the biggest shockers when outgoing world champion France was supposed to have an easy ride against Senegal.

Bouba Diop decided otherwise, leading the Africans to a perfect start with a 1-0 win. France never recovered and was eliminated in the group stage.

It was not the only time Africa made such a splash in the first game. In Milan in 1990, African football truly came onto the international scene when Oman Biyeck scored for Cameroon to beat defending champion Argentina.

Diego Maradona and Argentina did recover from the shock and lost the cup only in the last minutes of the final against Germany.

Argentina had a similar start in 1982 in Spain, when it also was the defending champion. That time, Erwin Vandenbergh scored the only goal for an upset Belgian win.

There have also been some awful duds to kick off the World Cup, as three scoreless openers from 1966 to 1974 illustrate.

As host, South Africa was already sure to play the opener at Soccer City.

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