It’s going to be an entertaining game, but if the South Africans get anything out of it, I’ll see it as an upset.
As hosts, the Bafana Bafana will be screamed at and vuvuzela-ed by their supporters to attack, attack and attack – not a good idea.
Mexico have forwards that can do some serious damage, and they set up their formation to take advantage of that strength up front.
They play with three forwards to accomodate the attacking talents of young stars like Arsenal’s Carlos Vela, Tottenham Hotspur’s Giovanni Dos Santos and Manchester United newbie Javier Hernandez, who’s been in fine form in the pre-tournament friendlies.
South Africa have the ever-reliable Aaron Mokoena at the back, but he won’t be able to repel Mexico on his own.
As hosts, South Africa should try and go for it. But they have to be careful not to get over-run at the back.
Steven Pienaar will obviously be the main man for the Africans. He was simply irresistible for Everton last season, and he has the experience and confidence not to let the occassion get the better of him.
His blend of skill, creativity and hard work makes him a difficult customer for even the best defences. The hosts’ hopes of progressing in the tournament lie solely on him.
Mexico on the other hand will have to look to a much less experienced player to help them through the group stage.
Javier Hernandez is seen as a major talent in his homeland, and the Mexicans will be pinning their hopes on him to finish off much of the fine football that we all know they are capable of.
It’s a lot of pressure for the 22-year-old, but he certainly has the ability.
Mexico also have a couple of experienced campaigners such as Barcelona’s Rafael Marquez, and a trump card in the mercurial Cuauhtemoc Blanco, in the squad for what will surely turn out to be his last World Cup. You can bet he’ll want to try that bunny-hop for one last time if he gets on the pitch.
Both teams will probably go on the offence, so for once we might have an entertaining opening game to a major tournament.
I think it’ll be a high-scoring game, probably 3-1 or 3-2 to Mexico.
The bigger picture
If Mexico wins this, I’ll put my money on them qualifying for the next round. France is in such a shambles now that I think they’ll have a repeat of 2002 and just crash out in the group stage. Can’t wait to bid au revoir to that nutter Raymond Domenech.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Uruguay are actually the best bet to make it through, especially with their fearsome strike duo of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, the striking wonder that hit 49 goals 48 games for Ajax last season.
And all that means that South Africa will gain the unfortunate distinction of being the first host nation to get knocked out before the knock-outs.