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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
South Africa 1-1 Mexico


They called them the weakest hosts in the history of the World Cup. They said that they would be outclassed, that they would never progress from the group stage. They were wrong. After months of training camps and practice matches, after slowly regaining their confidence under the tutelage of Carlos Alberta Perriera, one of the most experienced managers in international football, South Africa rose up under the eyes of the world and stuffed the critics’ words back down their throats. A credible 1-1 draw, that could have been so much more if Katlego Mphela’s last minute shot had hit the other side of the post, has restored hope to their hearts of the home fans.

It didn’t always seem that way. The South African players danced their way down the tunnel, emerging to rapturous applause and the constant buzz of the accursed vuvuzuela, but it was Mexico who hit the ground running, dominating the opening exchanges. But South Africa grew into the game and, by the later stages of the first half, they began to string some splendid passing moves together, sweeping the ball up and down the pitch with such perfection that all those pre-tournament worries about the flight of the ball seemed as well founded as those fears of a Millennium Bug. Steven Pienaar pulled the strings, aided and abetted by the lively Siphiwe Tshabala of the Kaizer Chiefs and the feisty Mphela.

It wasn’t a perfect display by any means. While weeks away from home may have aided team spirit, apparently it has done little for defensive cohesion, especially at set-pieces. With a memorable win within their grasp, the South African defence allowed a floated cross from Andres Guardado to reach Rafael Marquez, the Barcelona player smashing home his shot from close range with such ferocity that it almost took Itumeleng Khume’s head off. This was by no means an isolated incident. Was it an offside trap gone awry or a lack of concentration at crucial moments? Either way, it needs to be rectified quickly.

But that’s just being picky. Given how pessimistic the South African people were about their nation’s chances, this was a performance that bordered on the miraculous. The hosts are nowhere near as abject as we were led to believe and they can be proud of their efforts here. Would you be brave enough to write them off against Uruguay or France? No, neither would I. For that much alone, this a proud day for Bafana Bafana,


Mexico are a wonderful team to watch, but they can only attack. Defensively, they are as weak as kittens. It’s a problem that’s exacerbated by the fact that their goalkeeper Oscar Perez is the same height as Tom Cruise. Seriously. When Mexico play, they play quickly, pushing forwards up the pitch in numbers. At times before the break, they had almost every single player in the South African half. That’s fine if you take you chances, but if you don’t, you’re in trouble. South Africa grew in confidence and found acres of space to spray the ball into. With players like Tshabalala who are quick enough and brave enough to take chances on, it was only a matter of time before they scored. Javier Aguirre, the much-loved Mexican boss, has much to ponder before his meeting with France in five days.


Because the offside law isn’t quite what it seems and, fortunately, the match officials were smart enough to know it. A player is offside, you see, if he is in the opposition half and is nearer to the goal line than the ball and the second-from-last opponent. Because the goalkeeper is almost always the last opponent, it means that the attacker can’t move further than the last defender. However, when the goalkeeper charges off his line and flies straight past his defenders as Itumeleng Khune did in the first half, he ceases to be the last opponent. That meant that Carlos Vela was in an offside position, despite the presence of a South African defender on the goal line. By making such an abject attempt at catching the ball, Khune inadvertently saved his team on a technicality.


Magic Moment - Nerves? Not a bit of it. Moments before the biggest game of their lives, the South African players were dancing in the tunnel.

Laser-Guided - Carlos Vela split the defence in the first half, turning quickly and jabbing his foot under the ball to send it looping straight to Guillermo Franco.

Net-Busting - Siphiwe Tshabalala had an awfully long time to overthink his shot, but he dealt with the pressure well, slamming home a wondergoal from an angle.

Safe-Hands - Itumeleng Khune didn’t have much time to react to Giovani Dos Santos’ close range thunderbolt, but somehow managed to palm it round the post. Excellent.

Tactical-Master - Carlos Alberto Perriera took over a shambles and he’s built a team that South Africa can be proud of. He’s gone back to basics and it’s worked.

Danger! - With Mexico thundering in on goal, the South Africans had to take drastic action with Teko Modise putting a cynical reducer on Vela after 20 minutes.

Floodlight-Smasher - With all that hype about the ball, you might have expected better from Steven Pienaar’s first half free-kick than an artless welly into the stands.

Ref-Watch - A bit of a fussy display by Uzbekistani whistler Ravshan Irmatov, but that offside decision in the first half made up for it.


MAN OF THE MATCH - Sipiwe Tshabalala. A constant menace and scorer of a memorable goal.

Uncle Leo

This cook is an anti-semite
Nov 19, 2003
NY Parks Dept
Good report mate. And what a lovely goal (and, personally, result!) with which to start the World Cup.