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Rafeal Marquez quietens the Vuvuzelas and spoils the party.

Rafael Marquez denied South Africa an opening game win by equalizing in 78 minutes today in Johannesburg.

South Africa took the lead in 54 minutes in emphatic style courtesy of a splendid, strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala but Marquez leveled the score after meeting an Andres Guardado cross later in the second half.

South Africa take the lead

The game was very, much a game of two halves as Mexico controlled the first 45 minutes, squandering many good chances and South Africa played with more confidence in the second. In the end Mexico coach, Javier Aguirre may look at this as a chance missed as Mexico could have easily closed out the game before half time however a draw leaves both teams in a good position in Group A.

The stage had been set long before the teams trotted onto the field. 84,490 people had swarmed to the Soccer City Stadium the vast majority being South Africans blasting their Vuvuzelas which created a cacophony of noise and an electric atmosphere.

In the tunnel the South Africans were singing and in return Mexican captain Gerardo Torrado was doing his best to gee up his troops with calls of “vamonos”. Out on the pitch Sepp Blatter was boring the crowd with his usual, rhetoric before South African president officially opened the tournament excusing the absence the father of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

“Firstly, let me convey the message from our icon, who wanted to be with us to greet you before the start of the match but unfortunately there was a tragedy in the Mandela family. But he said the game must start, you must enjoy the game. Ladies and gentlemen, we as a country are humbled by this honour to host one of the biggest tournaments of the world. Africa is indeed happy. This is the African World Cup… I declare the 2010 Fifa World Cup open.”

Typically, Aguirre chose a surprisingly starting 11 with Perez in goals and a back four of Osorio and Rodriguez in the centre with Salcido and Aguilar on the defensive flanks. In midfield Rafeal Marquez was employed as the sitting midfielder with Torrado on the right and Juarez on the left. Guillermo Franco started as the main striker and spearhead of attack with Dos Santos and Vela on each wing.

The South African’s set up with a more, defensive line up with Katlego Mphela as a lone striker but with support in midfield from Steven Pieenar and Siphiwe Tshabalala. The defence would be organized by captain, Aaron Mokoena.
It was Mexico who started with more intent and their slick passing and movement troubled the South African early on. Giovani Dos Santos was tormentor in chief and he glided past the static defence several times linking well with Aguilar on the right hand side.

Fortunately for South Africa their captain was sharp enough to deny Dos Santos in 3 minutes after the South Africa keeper, Khune cleared a cross badly. But Mexico were dominant and a direct run by Dos Santos led to a corner in 13 minutes which was met by Franco who headed far and wide when he was unmarked and open.

An animated Javier Aguirre

When South Africa finally got out of their half they were awarded with a free-kick in 17 minutes after Suarez blatantly blocked Pienaar from running into space. Suarez also collected the first card of the game when he stopped the possibility of a quick set play. Pienaar’s kick was collected easily by Perez who then created a quick counter attack through Dos Santos however a sharp run ended in his strike sailing just wide over the South African goal giving the fans a first glance of the famously, light Jubulani match ball.

South Africa were beginning to settle into the game but their high crosses into the box were easily dealt with by Mexico number Perez who started quick counters with passes into midfield. The South African defence were struggling with these counter attacks and had to resort to fouling both Salcido and Dos Santos to deny goal scoring opportunities leading to a yellow card for Dikgakoi in 26 minutes.

Mexico’s quick passing game was by-passing the South African midfield and splitting the defence far too easily. Franco was put through by Vela in 31 minutes but Khune did well to parry his tame shot then Vela found himself in acres of space one minute later but he dragged his shot far wide.

Mexico finally had the ball in the net in 37 minutes only to be denied by the linesman’s flag. A corner from the left was floated into from Dos Santos prompting Khune to come charging off his line and missing the ball completely. The ball then landed perfectly for Vela who tapped home but as he was beyond the hasty, goalkeeper he put himself in a offside position despite Pienaar being on the line.

There was much confusion and looks of disbelief from the Mexico’s players but the referee had called it right, Aguirre was incandescent with rage and obviously did not agree and his mood was only compounded when Franco missed another clear header 2 minutes later.

The last 5 minutes were controlled by South Africa and their attacks came via long crosses that were punched away for corners by the hesitant Perez or scrambled safe by the defence.

South Africa started the second with a far better attitude but both teams were spreading the ball around with quick passing exchanges. Chances were at a premium as the defences coped well with the few half chances that were created. Then in 54 minutes the stadium erupted as South Africa took the lead.

A beautiful, low  ball slid between Mexican defence caused all sorts of problems and Tshabalala was quick to latch on to the pass then powerfully, strike it high past a static Perez. It was a wonderful strike from the Kaiser Chief who ran to celebrate with his team-mates in an obviously choreographed, routine.

The Mexican’s seemed stunned by the goal and Aguirre changed Aguilar for Guardado on left in a bid to add more attacking impetuous but the South Africans seemed happy to invite the Mexican’s to attack and catch them on the counter. South Africa nearly doubled their lead in 65 minutes when Mphela squandered a brilliant chance in 65 minutes side footing past the goal from 5 yards.

But it was Barcelona’s Rafeal Marquez who would have the final say equalizing in 78 minutes and spoiling the host’s party. Andres Guardado floated a simple ball into the box but the South African’s off side went badly, wrong leaving Marquez unmarked at the back post who calmly slotted the ball past the keeper.

In the end South Africa could of stole the match when Mphela managed to squeeze a shot past Perez only to see it rebound of the bottom left hand post but a draw seemed to be a fair result and leaves both teams with an excellent chance of progression.

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