Tuesday, 1 June 2010

It's official, South Africa CAN beat Mexico when the big kick-off comes on June 11

THE key quotes from Polokwane on Monday night came from Guatemala coach Francisco Melgar. Nice bloke. His nation is struggling with volcanic eruptions and general devastation, he’d just been on the end of a 5-0 defeat – South Africa’s biggest since the end of international isolation in 1992 – and he insisted: “Yes, they can beat Mexico.”

That’s all the Rainbow Nation wanted to hear after their eleventh straight unbeaten match since the return of Carlos Alberto Parreira to the hottest seat in football in November. But there was also this, in response my query in the press conference: “We have had a good time here. The facilities are perfect. I have no doubt South Africa can host the greatest World Cup.”

Oh, and he admitted the Vuvuzelas will have an impact on the 31 visiting nations... I grow tired of warning the European nations what a din the plastic trumpets can make. I tried to speak to talkSport last night amid the incredible noise at the sparkling new Peter Mokaba Stadium... but it was a struggle. I was back on this morning explain the impact this atmosphere can have, but I don’t think they’ll get it until the witness it for themselves.

But enough of the beautiful noise. What about the result? On a night when Aaron Mokoena won his 100th cap and nearly 40,000 arrived in the far north of the country to see their side’s penultimate friendly, they played good possession football with Steven Pienaar dictating the play from a central role. He plays wide right for Everton – where he was player of the season in the English Premier League last winter – but he is starting to look comfortable getting forward and spraying the passes for Bafana Bafana.

Katlego Mphela converted a penalty in each half and Reneilwe Letsholonyane and second-half substitutes Surprise Moriri and Bernard Parker were the other scorers and though Guatemala are ranked a lowly 114 the hosts can rightly begin to hope before June 11 when they kick-off their Group A campaign against Mexico, Uruguay and France, who are all in the top 20.

Parreira, who trims his squad to 23 this morning, said:"Technically we weren’t brilliant but the attitude was very good considering Guatemala often had nine men behind the ball. In those circumstances, it’s good to score five.

"I’m afraid I ‘m not in a very good mood. Now I must tell five players they have to go home. For three months I have seen wonderful commitment this team and I thank them."

The big successes last night? Apart from Pienaar, left-back Lucas Thwala produced real creativity down the left – he made the second for Letsholonyane fired home. And Orland Pirates goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs (above), in for the injured Kaizer Chiefs stopped Itumeleng Khune , looked confident and strong, even saving a penalty from Guatemala captain Guillermo Ramirez.

My exclusive video from Polokwane:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjzwzNhaeTM

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