LatAm teams kick off WCup with mixed results

Decent start, can do better. That could be the report card for

the three Latin American sides that have played their opening

matches in the World Cup.

Argentina leads the way with its opening 1-0 win against

Nigeria, but Mexico’s 1-1 draw with host nation South Africa and

10-man Uruguay’s point from a 0-0 draw against 1998 champion France

were both received with cautious optimism back home.

Argentina “suffered” while clinging to a 1-0 lead, Mexico was

“lucky” and “breathes again” after scoring a late equalizer and

Uruguay had “no creativity” and “struggled” to hold on. That

was the assessment by media in the three countries.

The remaining Latin American teams play their opening matches in

the coming days. Paraguay plays Italy on Monday, five-time winner

Brazil takes on North Korea on Tuesday, while Honduras plays Chile

on Wednesday.

The last time that a Latin American team besides Brazil won the

World Cup was Argentina in 1986. The South American country also

won it in 1978.

Argentina clung nervously to an early goal from Gabriel Heinze

on Saturday after failing to convert a number of clear

opportunities. Argentina would have sweated less had Lionel Messi

found a way past Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

“Argentina suffered to beat Nigeria in a debut of ups and

downs,” according to La Prensa newspaper, while the headline in

Clarin was “Argentina suffered but took the first step.”

More pointedly, Messi’s performance was appreciated by a home

media often critical that his form for Barcelona seldom

materializes in an Argentina shirt.

“Messi was the player that everybody was hoping to see,” La

Prensa newspaper said.

Uruguay, which won the first World Cup in 1930 and again in

1950, may have to wait a bit longer after Friday’s performance

against France.

The match produced an opening day dud. France winger Franck

Ribery and Uruguay striker Diego Forlan showed flashes of their

potential, but the fear of losing the opening game stifled

offensive tactics for much of the match.

On paper, Uruguay’s scoreless draw with France after having

Nicolas Lodeiro sent off looks a better result, but there was

frustration back home with the general performance.

El Pais online columnist Eduardo Pinon said being tough to beat

won’t get the team through the group.

“There was no creativity and all that ended up happening was a

struggle. Just struggling,” he wrote. “We played very little, and

just getting stuck in won’t be enough.”

Mexico, meanwhile, had trouble converting possession and

build-up play into goals in the first half against South Africa on

Friday when chance after chance was spurned in the tournament’s

first match. South Africa took the lead in the 55th minute, leaving

the Mexicans to chase nervously for an equalizer. Mexico finally

got it in the 79th.

The main culprit against South Africa was Argentina-born striker

Guillermo Franco, who may find his place coming under pressure from

Manchester United signing Javier Hernandez.

Mexican newspapers reflected the relief of fans back home that

an opening day loss had been averted.

“A lucky draw,” said El Universal, while Reforma newspaper

said: “El Tri breathes again after draw.”

Uruguay plays its next match against South Africa on June 16,

while Mexico plays France a day later.