It. Is. Time.
We begin our liveblog coverage the beloved host team … and a team USMNT fans love to hate.
If you read our team previews, you know that South Africa has a country behind it but will need some luck to get out of Group A. Meanwhile, Mexico has good talent and is in good form, but they need to win this match or there is a real chance they’ll have trouble getting out of the group.
The scoring in this match might be tough to come by, as Bafana Bafana will attempt to keep the middle plugged up while the Mexicans have some unproven talent up front.
Another factor that can’t be forgotten is that Mexico is traditionally a hard-fouling team. That could lead to real trouble against the home side, which is sure to get plenty of kind calls from the referees.
I’m thinking this ends up in a 1-1 draw, but based on form, Mexico should win 2-1 or 3-1. Man, it pains me to say good things about El Tri.
On to the lineups and the fun.
South Africa: Khune, Gaxa, Mokoena, Thwala, Khumalo, Tshabalala, Pienaar, Modise, Letsholonyane, Dikgacoi, Mphela. Subs: Josephs, Masilela, Ngcongca, Sibaya, Davids, Booth, Parker, Nomvethe, Moriri, Sangweni, Walters, Khuboni.
Mexico: Perez, Rodriguez, Aguilar, Osorio, Salcido, Torrado, Marquez, Juarez, Vela, Franco, Giovani. Subs: Ochoa, Barrera, Castro, Blanco, Hernandez, Moreno, Guardado, Magallon, Torres, Bautista, Medina, Michel.
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
PREGAME: HERE WE GO PEOPLE!!!! I’m stoked.
Pregame: OK, I have my bagel, my Diet Coke and I already hate this Bud House thing. The guy they got to support the U.S. team is a douchebag with the popped collar?! Come on!
Pregame: Uh-oh, Not that I mind Efan Okoku being cut off, but a technical issue? That’s not acceptable, ESPN.
Pregame: I can’t hear this Sigue Sigue Sputnik song in the ESPN Mobile commercial without thinking of Ferris Bueller.
Pregame: I don’t believe in any ism. I quote John Lennon: “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.”
Pregame: That view of Soccer City looks like a painted picture. It really is a gorgeous look.
Pregame: And GLITCH NO. 2! This doesn’t bode well. CAMON, WWL!
Pregame: Ah, and here is the REAL adidas World Cup ad, with Zidane leading some crazy quest. I think it includes a head-butting level.
Pregame: As a reminder, the game is on ESPN and ESPN3.com, as all of the World Cup matches except the ABC games will be (the Website, I mean). And let us know if the mobile app works (Spectator)
Pregame: a commercial for the Mexican team in Spanish? Well played, Powerade
Pregame: And out on the pitch they walk. Martin Tyler is going to have to scream. Either that or turn him up to 11!
Pregame: Emperor Palpatine speaks!
Pregame: Just get to it, dude. They’re not going to stop with the vuvuzelas.
Pregame: The teams must hate this. Especially the Mexicans. I’m totally expecting one of them to take Zuma out with a harsh tackle.
Pregame: Can’t hear a word Martin Tyler is saying. Wow, is the crowd noise that much of a problem already? So far, this is FSC-like production, ESPN.Step it up. NOW.
Pregame: Jeebus! Let’s get to it, people!
Pregame: To James T, they did mention Mandela, and Zuma gave a message from him to the people. Get off that Aussie feed, you Scouser loser.
Pregame: I like the kits for El Tri. They look appropriately foul-prone.
Pregame: That one section of the crowd is Mexican fans. (Note, I am half Mexican so I can make this joke) I bet $10 they’re all Raiders fans, too. Hey-o!
Pregame: This has to be a record for longest UF liveblog without the ball actually being played.
Pregame: And heeeeeeeers we go. I’m moist with anticipation. Too much?
Pregame: Welcome to all the new readers. We know you’ve been coming around a lot this week. We’ll try to earn your continued visits. And 83 comments already?! Well done
1st minute: KICKOFF!
2nd minute: Bafana Bafana already laying back here? Possible. And the first foul goes to Mexico.
3rd minute: CHANCE!!! Two Saints pounces on a rebound from the goalkeeper after a great ball in. If this is the way it’s going to be, it’s going end up 3-0 for El Tri.
4th minute: And South Africa finally gets a real touch. One has to wonder if they’re a little shell-shocked with this stage.
5th minute: Mexico has all kinds of room down the right side. Bafana Bafana has pinched to the middle and are trying to clog it up. That’s exactly the wrong way to take on the Mexicans. I’m picking El Tri 3-1 now.
6th minute: Are the tech issues only on my TV or everywhere? They just started. And @EF: How dare you cheat on us with that awesome ESPN Gamecast setup.
7th minute: It’s clear there’s a massive gap in class now. It’s amazing how good a run of form the Mexicans are on considering how bad they looked a year ago. Oh, wait, that was with Sven as manager.
8th minute: Game settled in a little bit, and Bafana Bafana have parked the bus, people.
9th minute: The first four touches of positive movement from South Africa are frittered away.
10th minute: On a non-game note, the World Cup has moved into the rotating adverts era. Get ready for lots of the Kia hamsters rapping Black Sheep.
11th minute: I’m waiting for the “Ole!” cheers as Mexico strings together pass after pass with no trouble.
12th minute: Aguilar caught offside. They’re going to break that back line eventually. If you’re a fan of Mexico, you have to be happy so far.
13th minute: Someone correct me, but I don’t think I’ve seen more than three touches from South Africa at once.
14th minute: And we have our first cheating, lying diver. That s**t ruins it for non-fans.
15th minute: Martin Tyler just mentioned a “beefy challenge.” Heh. Corner to El Tri sent nicely in. Franco should have done better with that. He was free for the header and pops it over the bar.
16th minute: And here we have the first real possession from Bafana Bafana. I count 10 passes before they win a free kick. Even Martin Tyler noticed.
17th minute: I love the overhead camera. Pienaar sends it easily over the bar. He should have done better with that.
18th minute: Agree with you, Phil, that Mexico should have a goal by now. That left back is just shambolic.
YELLOW CARD: Suarez from Mexico for poor sportsmanship. How shocking.
CHANCE: Two Saints takes a counter shot from the top of the box and really hits it wide. Poor shot for Johnny.
20th minute: Free kick for Mexico. This game looks like it will get more physical as it wears on. Nice ball to the back post and nice pick by GK Kuhne.
21st: Oh, look, it’s a player who can’t score for Arsenal. Hello, Vela.
22nd minute: Bafana Bafana seems to have weathered the Mexican storm. Now, will they be able to get some possession and move forward. I’m thinking no.
23rd minute: A sort of half-chance from SAfrica. What does anyone know about the Mexican keeper? He seems a little dodgy with the Jorge Campos move earlier and then fumbling that save.
25th minute: South Africa are gaining in confidence, but then they send a weak shot from 35 yards out wide of the net. I will say that this Mexican keeper needs to be tested. He looks weak.
26th minute: I hope I can live up to your expectations, commenter Sarah.
27th minute: South Africa keep moving the ball up through the midfield then falling apart once they get within 30 yards of the net.
27th minute: OOH! A dive from Mexico saves a real chance for Pienaar. I think that was a dive on a solid 50-50 ball.
YELLOW CARD: South Africa gets one when Two Saints goes down in a Blanco-like heap. I hate divers.
28th minute: Rafa Marquez sends the free kick over the bar just like Pienaar did. looks like this ball will fly a bit high.
29th minute: Yeah, this Mexican keeper is weak. And I’ve never seen a goalkeeper in an all-white kit. Looks odd.
31st minute: The longer this goes like this the better for South Africa. Now we’re in a lot of not much in the middle of the pitch. And 61 percent of the possession to Mexico but no goal They should have two.
32nd minute: How do people not get sick of blowing on those damn vuvuzelas?!
SAVE!!! Franco makes an outstanding run and gets the cute chip from Vela. He brings it down and turns on goal, but Kuhne is there in a flash and makes a great stop. Great reactions from the South African keeper.
34th minute: Another break from the Mexicans, moving the ball through to Vela, but just like with Arsenal, he dinks it across goal instead of scoring. HAHA, screw him and screw Arsenal.
35th minute: Well done, commenters! We’re going to hit 200 comments before the end of the first half! GET IN!
36th minute: Tshabalala is the best name in the tourney so far. I keep expecting Counting Crows to start singing “Mr. Jones.”
37th minute: Almost a break there from South Africa but an offside.
37th minute: CHANCE! Once again, Vela dinks it off to Two Saints instead of taking the shot. Mexico with the corner.
GOAL DISALLOWED!!! Vela is offside because the goalie had moved off the line, so only a defender was between him and the goal. Dustin needs to teach Efan Okoku about the rule. That was clearly offside but a horrible defending from South Africa.
41st minute: Wow. Another header over the bar from Mexico. They’re not used to being able to win the ball in the air.
42nd minute: That was definitely the right call on the goal. The rule is two players, not one defender.
43rd minute: FYI, I actually got kicked off the site for a second because there are so many people in here. Well done! Let’s keep it going!
43rd minute: This Mexican goalie is horrible! He misses the ball on the corner and looks like a Sunday league player!
CHANCE!!! South Africa’s No. 9 needs to get to that cross. Another 2 inches and he’s got the opening goal. Wow.
44th minute: Another horrible clearance from the Mexican keeper. Another corner for SAfrica.
CHANCE!!! Bafana Bafana with another header that just goes over. They could steal this thing. Wow.
45th minute: The tension and action have really ramped up the last 10 minutes. Only one minute of added time. And another offside from Mexico.
HALF TIME: After the first 20 minutes were all Mexico, South Africa found their feet and toward the end of the half got some real chances. The disallowed goal was the proper call, even if it was really just luck that the goalie had come out too far. A good half of football. One down, one to go! I’ll be back in 10 minutes to liveblog the second half! GET IN!
HALFTIME: New friend of the site Grant Wahl told me he’s watching the match in a bar in Soweto today. That has to be amazing… and loud. And I agree with the ESPN fellows, South Africa should be thanking their lucky stars that they haven’t conceded a goal.
HALFTIME: Bergkampesdios, you’re welcome. I depend on this site when I’m in meetings, too.
SUB: Masilela comes in to replace the horrible left back Thwala.
46th minute: Here we go!
47th minute: One has to wonder if the Mexicans will be let down by the lack of a goal in that first half. They should have three or four, really. Oh, and Martin Tyler just said “24/7.” Dude is so hip.
48th minute: South Africa have to feel as if they’ve got the game right where they want it. They’re looking for a result. If they can steal a goal, great, but they only have to stay alive for 45 minutes.
HALF-CHANCE: Nice cross from the left but Salcedo is able to flick it away. Throw to Bafana Bafana.
49th minute: SAfrica looks much more confident to start the second half. You feel like they’ve at least got a little momentum.
50th minute: The space isn’t quite as open on that right wing for Mexico. Nice adjustment from SAfrica.
51st minute: Pienaar with a ball that almost gets through. He’s really the leader of this side, not just because we’ve heard of him but because he actually thinks two steps ahead.
52nd minute: I very much prefer the more standard adidas Cop Mundial cleats with the colored stripes than the pink and purple and orange crazy Nike boots.
53rd minute: The ball goes out right and the South Africans close down. They’ve seen that they were killed and made the right change.
54th minute: Mexico are having to assess the landscape now. The space isn’t in the same spots. This could get cagey for a few minutes.
GOALLLL!!!! A perfect counter from Tshabalala. What a ball into him, and he puts it away from the left side. The Mexican keeper hesitated and he was lost. WOW. GOALLLLLL!!!! 1-0 South Africa.
56th minute: This will open the game up immensely. The Mexicans got punished for their failure to put the ball away.
YELLOW CARD to Torrado for something. I didn’t see it. I was too busy laughing at Martin Tyler’s “Tshabalalalalalalalala!”
58th minute: You have to say that, for as bad as SAfrica looked early, that finish was absolutely top-class. We won’t see that many better all month.
59th minute: And a freakin’ dive from Juarez. This is rough for Mexico. They need a point here with this group. The French are happy with this result.
60th minute: And now the South Africans are starting to tear through the Mexicans. Also, I agree with Martin Tyler that Kuhne’s throw is amazing.
SAVE! Kuhne goes full stretch on Two Saints. This has the feel of an upset. Just like you feel it in college basketball, the tide has turned in this match. Mexico are shell-shocked now.
61st minute: The ref isn’t even buying the diving anymore, and Perez the Crazy comes running out 35 yards again. Amazing. He’s like the worst of Jorge Campos and the worst of Fabien Barthez all in one.
63rd minute: I liked the Jay Glazer reference, Goat.
63rd minute: Another dive? yeah, probably.
64th minute: Even though the goalie made a mess of it, that was a shot that no keeper in the world was going to save. Well done Tshabalala.
65th minute: To the commenter who asked about the ESPND feed, that’s how they got around not getting the Spanish-language rights in the U.S. They bought the Portuguese rights instead so it’s on all of the ESPN networks.
CHANCE!!! Modise misses an absolute sitter on the right, but was he called offside? Nope, but he missed it and the GK had guessed wrong.
67th minute: This match really has turned for South Africa, it seems.
68th minute: And now Bafana Bafana are moving the ball around and holding it nicely. Shocking change of tone.
69th minute: SUB: Vela off for Blanco. I hate Blanco. And Tyler calls him a fattie!
70th minute: CHANCE!!! Mandise is broken free and dragged down in the box, so he puts the ball straight into Perez the GK. How the hell was that not a penalty?! Horrible non-call. This game should be 3-0 South Africa now. Amazing stuff.
71st minute: To answer the queries, Blanco is 37, and I’m the ass who picked Mexico to win the group.
72nd minute: The change at left back has made a ton of difference for South Africa. The space that was there for Two Saints in the first half is now gone, and Mexico haven’t found another route yet.
73rd minute: Javier Hernandez on. CAMON YOU MANCHESTER UNITED!!!! Franco off.
75th minute: South Africa seem to be parking the bus again. That didn’t work in the first half, but you really can’t see the flow in Mexico’s attack right now, so maybe it is time to park it and play for the 1-0 win.
76th minute: Well done, folks. We’re hitting 300 comments in the first match! But remember to pace yourselves, we have 63 more to go.
77th: A cross wasted by South Africa. And they get 8 behind the ball immediately.
77th minute: Poor offside call there. The ball was played off a South African player.
79th minute: Bafana Bafana are more than content to let Mexico play with the ball at midfield. When the cross comes in, they do well to kick it away.
GOALLLL!!!! How the hell did four players get through that not offside. The ball comes to Marquez all alone. There are three players there. He puts it away. 1-1. That was just horrible defending. One player put them all onside and it was all too easy. Honestly, it’s deserved after the bad luck of the first half.
80th minute: The defender who didn’t pull the offside trap is completely to blame for that. It’s clear they were moving forward except the one player, then looked around like “whoops. me?!”
81st minute: Missed in all the goal talk was an outstanding shot from South Africa immediately after that Jay Glazer could only parry aside.
82nd: Blanco is pants. and there’s BIDEN!!! This is a big f**king deal!
83rd minute: Bafana Bafana don’t seem to want the draw anymore. They’re going in for the win. Not sure that’s the smart move.
84th minute: and Pienaar off for Parker. Was he just tired?!
85th minute: Nice getting back from South Africa. Could have been a real chance for future Manchester United stud Hernandez.
86th minute: Gawd I hate Blanco. He has the free kick from about 30 yards. Well cleared by South Africa.
88th minute: A tense 2 plus minutes left. And Anonsters, the France match kicks off at 2:30 pm EDT but the pregame starts at 2 p.m. EDT.
89th minute: All in all, this has been a quality, entertaining football match. A nice way to open the tournament.
89th minute: Blanco the fatty sends a cross in but it was too high to really put on net.
SO CLOSE!!!!!! Wow. A field-length run for Mphela, He gets clear, beats the keeper again and HITS THE POST!!!!
91st minute: 3 minutes added. Actually, he did well to get that ball on frame, even if it hit the post. And this GK for Mexico is shambolic. just horrible. Now will it remain a draw?
92nd minute: South Africa realize they’re faster and go for the long ball, forcing Jay Glazer to come 30 yards out again to head it out.
93rd minute: You have to say that with all the missed chances on both sides, a 1-1 draw (which, if you look above, is what I originally predicted) is a fair result.
FULL TIME: 1-1. And a very entertaining match.
FULL TIME: Well, a very fun match to start. Thanks for joining me on the first liveblog. James T will be here in a couple hours with the Uruguay-France match. Hope you enjoyed it, too! I’m out!