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Mexico vs. South Africa: Mexicans realistic about World Cup prospects

In the opening World Cup match Friday morning, Mexico will come to a standstill to watch Mexico vs. South Africa. But only 20 percent of Mexicans think their team will advance to the semi-finals.

By Staff writer / June 10, 2010

South African fans and supporters from Mexico celebrate at Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg, South Africa prior the World Cup kickoff, Thursday.

Martin Meissner/AP

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Mexico City

Around the world, work, play, and school will grind to a halt during World Cup matches.

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Mexico is no different. Government officials here are admonishing employees that absences during the World Cup will not be tolerated. But expect TVs to sprout in many office cubicles.

And while Mexican education authorities say school won't be canceled, the inaugural game Friday morning, featuring Mexico vs. South-Africa, can be watched on TV in class.

Polls show 90 percent of Mexicans are interested in the month-long global soccer tournament – including their president, Felipe Calderon, who is expected to attend the opening game in South Africa Friday.

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Mexico has never made it past the quarter finals, and less than 20 percent say in a new poll that they believe Mexico will make it beyond there this year either.

Still, as its team, “El Tri,” opens the 2010 World Cup in the debut game against hosts South Africa, passions are high – even if expectations are more muted.

“Mexicans love soccer and love the Virgin of Guadalupe,” says Enrique Muñoz, a university student, just as a young woman approaches passing out fliers from a coffee shop advertising World Cup breakfast specials for the inaugural game. “Even those who do not love soccer still love watching the World Cup.”

According to a BVA-WIN poll published in the French publication Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui Monday, 90 percent of Mexicans say they are interested in the World Cup – one of the most enthusiastic nations of those polled – compared to just 56 percent of the French who care enough to turn on their television sets.

Why Mexico has high hopes

Mexico heads into the games particularly buoyed this year, after beating Italy, former World Cup champions, 2-1 in an exhibition game. That made it Mexico´s eighth win in 12 exhibition games. They lost two of the 12: against England and the Netherlands, and played draws with Ecuador and Iceland.

“We're going to the World Cup without fear of success," Tri coach Javier Aguirre was quoted as saying in the Associated Press. "We've played Italy, England and the Netherlands ... and we are here."

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