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Fri 11 Jun 2010 08:54 PM

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Day 1 matches end in a draw

Stunning goal from Siphiwe Tshabalala almost gave hosts South Africa a win over Mexico.

Day 1 matches end in a draw
(Getty Images)

A stunning goal from Siphiwe Tshabalala almost gave hosts South Africa the perfect start to the World Cup before they were held to a 1-1 draw in front of almost 85,000 fans at Soccer City on Friday.

Tshabalala crashed home an unstoppable left foot shot high and wide of Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez after 55 minutes of a hugely entertaining opening match in Group A on an emotional first day of the first World Cup staged in Africa.

Mexico, who had started brighter, equalised after 79 minutes when Rafael Marquez capitalised on some poor defending and picked his spot to score.

Although South Africa was denied victory, the excitement of the day, against an endless drone of noise from thousands of vuvuzelas, lifted the mood.

But it was a bitter-sweet occasion for millions who woke to the news that Zenani Mandela, the 13-year-old great grand-daughter of former president Nelson Mandela had been killed in a car crash on Friday night.

Mandela, 91, cancelled plans to attend the match which began after opening addresses from FIFA president Sepp Blatter and South Africa president Jacob Zuma who declared the World Cup open.

Mexico took control early on as South Africa made a nervy start with Giovani Dos Santos running the midfield and setting up chances for himself, Guillermo Franco and Carlos Vela as South Africa were forced on the back foot.

Mexico went close to taking the lead after 37 minutes but Vela was ruled narrowly offside after putting the ball in the net and that proved to be the turning point of the game.

South Africa, who had begun to find some rhythym in the later stages of the first half, came out for the second having got over their stage-fright and there were no arguments about them taking the lead with a powerful shot from Tshabalala.

Five minutes later Itumeleng Khune denied Dos Santos with a superb save at the other end before Mexico gained a share of the points with 11 minutes left, although Katlego Mphela almost won the game for South Africa when he hit the post at the end.

France-Uruguay match

Lacklustre France failed to turn their superior possession into chances and could ultimately pay a heavy price as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Uruguay in an uninspired World Cup Group A clash on Friday.

After South Africa and Mexico drew 1-1 in the tournament curtain-raiser in Johannesburg all four teams have a point each in what always looked an intriguing group.

It was not quite a repeat of France's 2002 horror show when, as holders, they lost 1-0 to Senegal en route to a first-round exit but the draw leaves the 2006 runners-up with plenty to do.

Uruguay finished the match with 10 men after substitute Nicolas Lodeiro picked up a second booking in the 81st minute.

The match on a crisp Cape Town night was never likely to match the opening game for action and fervour but France, despite pessimism among their fans, looked lively early on.

They had a great chance after seven minutes when Franck Ribery escaped down the left and crossed low only for Sydney Govou to sidefoot wide from six metres out.

Yoann Gourcuff kept goalkeeper Fernando Muslera on his toes with a near-post free-kick but then the chances dried up.

Uruguay were relying on strike duo Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez to open up the French defence on their own, rarely committing midfielders forward to support them.

As the game wore on it began to look a reasonable tactic with the livewire Forlan dangerous around the box, albeit testing Hugo Lloris only once with a 20-metre curler.

Nicolas Anelka led a three-man front line but looked off the pace and was replaced by Thierry Henry after 73 minutes.

Despite the vuvuzela-led promptings of the 64,000 crowd in the magnificent new Green Point stadium neither side could raise their game, though Forlan lashed wide with 15 minutes left.

Domenech now faces a test of his abilities against Mexico before what could a mouthwatering finale versus the hosts.

Uruguay, twice champions but who have not got past the second round since 1970, will probably be pleased with the result as the group remains there for the taking. (Reuters)

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