Opener set to be fiery encounter

2010-06-11 00:00

WITH one coach talking of making the opposition’s life “a hell” and the other uncompromising in nature and aggressive in the approach he has instilled in his team, today’s opening game of the World Cup is set to be a fiery one.

Bafana Bafana, lifted by the wave of support that has arisen in the last three months, take on gifted, 17th-ranked Mexico at Soccer City in the opening game of the first World Cup to be held on African soil.

And by the demeanour of the respective coaches, Bafana’s Carlos Alberto Parreira and Mexico’s Javier Aguirre, at yesterday’s press conferences, this is unlikely to be to be a cagey, caution-first opening encounter.

Both sides will be keyed up for a win in their first game of a strong, evenly-matched Group A that also includes France and Uruguay, who play the second game of the tournament at Cape Town Stadium tonight.

Unusually, and perhaps an indication of the South Africans’ confidence, Parreira revealed that Bafana will start with the same team that took the field in their final warm-up game, Saturday’s 1-0 win against Denmark in Atteridgeville.

This means Orlando Pirates captain Lucas Thwala is set to start ahead of Tsepo Masilela. Fulham’s Kagisho Dikgacoi will be preferred in defensive midfield ahead of Golden Arrows’ Thanduyise Khuboni.

Bafana’s strategy against the attacking Mexicans, who utilise three dangerous strikers in Giovani Dos Santos, Guillermo Franco and Carlos Vela, will be to keep things tight and probe cautiously but swiftly in attack.

“It’s a World Cup game and it’s a kind of war,” Parreira said. “In the opening game there is a lot of pressure. It’s intimidating for both teams — the whole world is watching you.

“Please quote me in a positive way — we want the players to enjoy the game and have fun.”

“It’s not easy to when you are playing a team as good as Mexico — the most dangerous team in this World Cup.

“We respect them; we are not afraid. They have their way. And the good thing about Bafana now is that this team has a ‘face’ and identity.

“We are confident and we want to deliver. We want to make this country proud and we’re going to give a hell to any team we meet on the ground.”

Parreira said Mexico’s high-risk attacking approach is what makes the central Americans such a threat.

“They are the only team in the tournament who will play with three forwards. And those three stay at the front.

“They are very good and very fast. And they have very good wingers too — it’s a very aggressive approach.

“But we have our own style now and we will oppose Mexico with that style.”

Captain Aaron Mokoena was asked if the team will pay special attention to dangerous left-sided Arsenal forward Vela.

“We know Vela is a fantastic player and we have the greatest respect for him. But tomorrow it’s about us,” the Portsmouth defender said.

“It’s about what we want. We need that game very badly. The moment of truth has arrived.”

Bafana have gone 12 matches unbeaten, culminating in one of their best wins in years against World Cup-qualified Denmark.

Asked what Parreira has brought to Bafana in the last six months, Mokoena replied: “The experience of the coach is vital.

“We had to get the confidence and win the support of South Africans and through the coach’s experience now we are talking about a Bafana that has an identity and a face.

“Now the belief among the boys is there — we are aware of our qualities.”

Bafana’s possession play is the most impressive aspect of their improvement in the last six months, and from training camps in Brazil and Germany.

The players are also super-fit, and set to run the socks off anyone they come up against.

Whether this will be enough to beat experienced Mexico is the question the nation is on tenterhooks to have answered.

A defeat would leave South Africa under greater pressure in their games against Uruguay at Loftus on Wednesday and France in Bloemfontein on June 22.

The power of the vuvuzela, an 85 000 crowd and the sheer will of 49 million South Africans as the country comes to a standstill today, are in the South Africans’ favour.

Plus they have shown in the last three months that, when well trained, Bafana can play some more than decent football.

They will need all these factors to work in their favour to shrug off the pressure and beat Mexico.

On TV

Opening ceremony: 2 pm

Kickoff: 4 pm

Live on SABC, SuperSport 3 and SuperSport HD

TEAMS

Bafana line-up: Itumeleng Khune, Siboniso Gaxa, Aaron Mokoena (capt.), Bongani Khumalo, Lucas Thwala, Teko Modise, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Steven Pienaar, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Katlego Mphela

Likely Mexico line-up: Oscar Perez, Paul Aguilar, Francisco Rodriguez, Ricardo Osorio, Carlos Salcido, Efrain Juarez, Rafael Marquez (capt.), Gerardo Torrado, Giovani Dos Santos, Guillermo Franco, Carlos Vela

 

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