Thursday, 10 June 2010

Looking into the future: here's the scoreboard all South Africa wants to see

JUST though you might all like to see what's going to happen on Friday afternoon at Soccer City, when South Africa take on Mexico in the opening game of the World Cup.
The Group A rivals are a world apart in terms of rankings: Mexico are 17th, South Africa 83rd, but as our scoreboard - set up during rehearsals between two junior sides on Tuesday - shows, anything can happen in the World Cup's opening game.
Blimey, all three goals in South Africa's 2-1 win scored in five minutes. Going to be a cracker, and we can get away early to avoid the traffic (perhaps the worst aspect of my magical myster tour so far).
My favourite kick-off clash was France v Senegal in 2002. The holders were beaten 1-0. Even better, every Senegal player was based in France, every French player was based overseas. France went on to score no goals and no points as they crashed out.
Could easily happen to Italy, the current holders, this time, although I can't see Paraguay, New Zealand or Slovakia "doing a Senegal"... or "doing a Cameroon" if you think back to Argentina in 1990. The Italian press are saying this is the worst side they've ever sent to a World Cup. They clearly don't remember 1966 when they were pelted with fruit on their return to Rome, having been ousted by North Korea.
Given yesterday's scenes in Sandton - and around the Rainbow Nation - World Cup fever (or feva as the advertisers like to spell it) is upon us. Vuvuzelas, hats, flags and innovative mirror covers in your national colours.
Still, we all know what the press can be like. Even Fabio Capello is having problems Send them home, I say - the tabloid hacks and snappers, not the team!
They should try a touch of patriotism. So desperate are the Bafana Bafana media and bosses to ensure a vibrant opening (also known as a home win backed by blaring vuvuzelas), they've got spies in the idyllic camp at Thaba y Batswane near Johannesburg (not to mention the scoreboard at Soccer City).
On a run of 12 games without defeat since last November, assistant boss Jairo Leal tells us: "We will be well prepared, in fact very well prepared, and we have observers close to the Mexican camp helping us.
"We have good information on what is happening inside the Mexican camp. It helps us prepare Bafana for the big day on Friday. We have also done our homework by watching every Mexican game since they started their World Cup qualifying campaign right up until last week's friendly 2-1 win over defending World Cup champions Italy."
Gulp. That's Italy. The defending champions. One of 11 nations the Mexicans beat in preparation for South Africa 2010. And they were distinctly unlucky when they went down to England at Wembley two weeks ago.
Still. Have faith South Africa. The score is there for all to see.

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