The Cup Running Over

June 11, 2010 12:46 PM

Khune Heroics and Mexican Tactical Mistakes Lead to Fair 1-1 Result

All of South Africa will be breathing a sigh of relief tonight as "Bafana Bafana" tied Mexico, preserving the streak that a home nation has never dropped its opener. Mexico, as predicted, dominated possession in the first half but typically failed to score as South Africa appeared unnerved by the occasion, save for the play of keeper Itumelung Khune. Why Mexican manager Aguirre failed to start Andres Guardado, saving him for the final 20 minutes, didn't seem to make sense, as he adds much-needed edge to a Mexican attack that frequently falls flat in the final third.

Mexico's fluid formation, where it seamlessly transitions from a back four to back three when in possession, allowed it to dominate midfield, but it was this same attack-minded formation that left it wide open to counter-attacks -- such as the one which led to one South African goal and almost another that hit the post. For all his equalizing heroics in this game, talismanic Rafael Marquez will need to play deeper and more defensive against France, shielding the defensive from the type of splitting through-balls that South Africa capitalized on. Aguirre should also be wondering how Mexico's right flank was left so exposed - - Siphiwe Tshabalala, the South African goalscorer, had acres of space throughout the match.  Having said that, Mexico looked especially dangerous towards the end of the half (particularly thanks to the introduction of Javier Hernandez) and might have scored another save for Khune's efforts.

All in all, South Africa appeared to gain confidence as the game progressed and needed not to lose this game far more than Mexico. The group remains wide open and the home field advantage of hosting the tournament has been confirmed again.

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