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Spoils Shared

Joseph Opio/Twenty Ten

Spoils Shared with Mexico

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa 1: Mexico 1, the honour was even, the spoils shared, who said the gods of football aren’t fair?

This was the score in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup, and in an encounter of two halves, the gods who preside over the beautiful game served up a most just result.

Siphiwe Tshabalala is the man with the most flamboyant name in world football since Zinedine Zidane. The dreadlocked winger proved just as talismanic in the 55th minute when he gave Bafana Bafana the lead with a majestic swing of his left foot.

A nation erupted.

That opener was especially rewarding because until then, Mexico, reassured in possession and penetrative in attack, had dominated proceedings. When Tshabalala’s intervention took the pitch by storm, the rest of the match became a heart-in-your-throat affair for the gathered fans.

Just as 49 million South Africans started dreaming of an impossible win, it was cruelly snatched from their grasp by Mexico’s Rafael Marquez. The Barcelona defender sneaked in at the far post and punished Bafana Bafana’s leaden-footed rearguard with a late, heartbreaking equalizer that was worthy of any striker.

Carlos Alberto Parreira’s team should have regained their lead but for a patent lack of sharpness by Teko Modise and Katlego Mphela in front of the goal. Still, it was mission accomplished for Aaron Mokoena and his troops. Their assignment coming into the match had been not...

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