World Cup: Day One in the books…South Africa impresses

June 11, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Two games and a total of 2 goals.

Not exactly the way most folks would like to see the World Cup in South Africa begin, but then again, that’s soccer.

South Africa earned an impressive 1-1 tie with Mexico in the opener and Uruguay and France played to a painful 0-0 draw that rivaled watering your lawn for excitement level.

But as boring as France-Uruguay turned out to be, Mexico and South Africa put together an exciting 90 minutes of action, with the host country nearly winning the game in the waning moments only to have a shot trickle off the post to save the day for Mexico.

The game was mostly about South Africa’s fine defensive effort, as they limited Mexico to only a handful of quality chances in close.  Mexico, to their credit, had several excellent opportunities early on…and a lot of times, when teams fail to cash in on those kinds of chances, they wind up wilting under the pressure later on in the game.  In fact, Mexico did the exact opposite, as they put together a workmanlike final 20 minutes that culminated in a goal with 10 minutes to play in regulation.

All in all, both teams should be happy with the one point.

South Africa will be a tough out — the host nation always is — and  Mexico can’t ever be taken lightly.  Both would have greatly benefited from a win, but a draw against a quality opponent is almost always acceptable.

As for France and Uruguay, this was a case of the French just not breaking through and scoring a goal against the ever-defensive South American team.  Uruguay tried to score, but it looked like an accident when they did venture into the offensive end of the field.  They weren’t well organized and France didn’t have to fret much all evening.  Uruguay played the final 9 minutes down a man after a red card ejection, but by then they had the kick-and-chase game down to perfection and France finished game frustrated but with one point in hand.

Tomorrow, it all gets started in earnest, with three games on the schedule:

7:30 am (EDT) — South Korea vs. Greece

10:00 am (EDT) — Argentina vs. Nigeria

2:30 pm (EDT) — USA vs. England

All eyes will be on the red, white and blue, as the Americans begin their quest to grab hold of the lead in group play with the much-anticipated showdown against England.  Coach Bob Bradley indicated on Friday morning that Jozy Altidore, who sprained his ankle in training on June 4, will be starting at the striker position on Saturday.  While Bradley didn’t reveal much else about his lineup, look for the U.S. to field a big, physical side on Saturday to try and combat the size and strength of the English squad.

I’m calling a 2-2 tie on Saturday.  If that happens, both teams will be pleased.