Mexico was lucky being drawn in a group with South Africa for the World Cup, although it puts an extra burden on El Tri facing the home team – and playing the opening game of the monthlong tournament.
“I don’t envy the Mexicans who are going to be subject to 90,000 vuvuzelas,” said South Africa defender Matthew Booth, referring to the loud horns that Bafana Bafana fans love to use.
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Of the eight seeded teams, South Africa is by far the weakest – ranked only No. 86, compared to Mexico’s ranking of 15. The problem for Mexico in Friday’s draw is that France – ranked No. 7 – was also drawn into Group A along with Uruguay. France qualified with the help of Thierry Henry’s hand ball in a playoff against Ireland.
“It’s a beautiful thing that we open the World Cup,” forward Guillermo Franco said. “I like it personally. It gave me goose bumps: Mexico playing in the first game and what that will mean around the world.”
Coach Javier Aguirre echoed Franco.
“It’s enormously exciting to open the World Cup,” he said. “It a unique chance, a historic chance. I hope when that day arrives we are up to it.”
Aguirre described the group as “wide open,” composed of four teams with totally different styles.
“Uruguay, France and South Africa are not similar in a single thing,” he added. “Preparation will be very important.”
“Mexico is a strong team,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. “In qualifying they were a bit up and down like we were. But they finished strong.”
Mexico won the last match it played against Uruguay, defeating the South Americans 3-1 in the third-place game of the 2007 Copa de America. They drew 0-0 in the 1966 World Cup, the only time they’ve played in the tournament.
Mexico has reached the World Cup quarterfinals twice, in 1970 and 1986 – both times when it hosted the tournament. It’s never gone further.
It was upset 2-0 by the United States in the round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup, which kept it from reaching the final eight. The loss cost Aguirre his job. He went on to coach several clubs in Spain before returning to the Mexico national team in April.
“It’s special,” said striker Giovanni dos Santos. “It’s extra motivation knowing it’s a game that will have all the eyes of the world on it.”