South Africa draws 1-1 with Mexico in World Cup opener
AP Soccer Writer
JOHANNESBURG – Rafael Marquez’s score earned Mexico a 1-1 draw with host South Africa in the opening game of the World Cup Friday after Siphiwe Tshabalala had given the host nation a dream start.
Tshabalala finished off a well-worked move in the 55th minute to set off wild celebrations at Soccer City.
But the South Africans left Mexico defender Marquez open in the 79th minute and he collected a left-wing cross to fire the tying goal.
The South Africans were close to scoring a winner in the 90th minute when Katlego Mphela got clear of two defenders but his shot hit the near post.
France and Uruguay face each other in the other Group A game later Friday.
As pledged by coach Javier Aguirre, the Mexicans attacked in force from the kickoff and the hosts should have been a goal down within the first two minutes when goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune fumbled a low cross. Giovani dos Santos had a chance for an easy shot, but South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena blocked it.
The aggressive Mexicans continued to create chances but lacked accuracy and, when Carlos Vela put the ball in the net from a flicked-on corner, it was called offsides.
Forced to defend for most of the time, the South Africans posed few threats but nearly scored just before halftime. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s cross from the left found Katlego Mphela unguarded in front of goal but he failed to reach it.
The chances gave the South Africans confidence and they went ahead in the 55th minute with a superb series of passes and accurate finishing shot. Teko Modise found Tshabalala clear of the Mexican defense, and the winger let fly with a powerful left-footed shot that flew past keeper Oscar Perez into the top far corner.
The Mexicans responded quickly and Dos Santos cut inside on the right for a left-footed drive that Khune pushed past the post.
They finally tied it when Andres Guardado floated in a cross from the left and Marquez was left completely free to control the ball and fire home from close range.