Mexico vs. South Africa: Rainbow Nation finds a hero in Tshabalala

South Africa’s midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala is now a hero in the Rainbow Nation after scoring a left-footed blast in the 55th minute of the Mexico vs. South Africa World Cup opener.

Ivan Sekretarev/AP
South Africa’s midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala, in yellow, scored the team's only goal, tying the Mexico vs. South Africa World Cup opener.

Siphiwe Tshabalala. Once you work out how to pronounce the name of South Africa’s midfielder, memorize it.

He’s now a hero in the Rainbow Nation after scoring a left-footed blast in the 55th minute of the Mexico vs. South Africa World Cup opener.

Nevermind that Tshabalala's goal did not win the game for Bafana Bafana – or “The Boys, The Boys,” as South Africa’s team is known. (The game ended in a tie after sloppy defense from South Africa allowed an easy goal by Mexico’s Marquez.)

IN PICTURES: 10 World Cup players to watch

The goal was followed by a Macarena-like dance near the corner flag in front of the home crowd at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium and inspired Archbishop Desmond Tutu to do a little jig in the stands.

The tie only gives South Africa one point instead of the three points for a win, but it’s worth much more than that for them. It gives a much-needed boost of confidence as they continue on to play France and Uruguay; teams, like Mexico, that have far more international experience.

Mexico goes Zoro-chic

Mexico’s “El Tri” dominated the first half of the game from the opening whistle, showing themselves to be the more professional, disciplined, patient team.

Wearing Zoro-chic, all-black uniforms – rather than the bright green, red, and white that World Cup fans are used to seeing – Mexico nearly drew blood early, slicing through a sloppy Bafana defense and almost scoring in the second minute.

Top Mexican striker Giovanni dos Santos got some good early looks, whetting his desire to find the back of the net.

Then, fellow striker Guillermo Franco had a great run into the box in the 30th minute, deftly receiving a perfect pass and almost tapping it into the goal. He was only prevented putting Mexico up 1-0 by a world class save by South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

Seven minutes later – in a moment that will live in infamy for some Mexican fans – they had a goal overturned on a controversial call.

It was a measure of Mexico’s confidence at that point in the game that they didn’t cause more of a fuss over the call.

South Africa’s slow start and missed chances

South Africa, meanwhile, never got it going. Perhaps it was jitters from the pressure of a nation on its shoulders, perhaps it was just their relative inexperience at the international level.

With minutes to remaining in the first half, South Africa saw its chance as a beautiful cross spun just inches from Katlego Mphela’s head. But the striker could not give the extra effort needed to connect. Had he dove for the ball, he may have scored.

“Killer” Mphela had another chance at the very end of the game, but his shot hit the post. Had he made that, he would have been the hero and South Africa’s chances to advance past the first round would have improved dramatically.

Plus, his name would have been easier for to pronounce. But it wasn’t meant to be.

So, Tshabalala it is.

IN PICTURES: 10 World Cup players to watch

World Cup 101:

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.