All things considered, Mexico has to be somewhat satisfied with the draw it achieved against host nation South Africa in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup on Friday.
Though it came in as the favorite in this match -- and played like it for almost all of the first half -- Mexico trailed 1-0 in the 55th minute thanks to Siphiwe Tshabalala's (sounds like a Counting Crows song chorus) historic strike of a goal, the first World Cup goal on African soil. The sheer significance of that moment, plus playing the host nation in the opener in an emotionally-charged stadium, might have been enough to make the Mexicans bow to the pressure.
You could feel the air being let out of that red, white and green balloon.
But veteran Rafa Marquez made sure Mexico wouldn't walk away empty-handed with his goal in the 79th minute. It seemed to settle his team over the final 11-plus minutes.
Mexico probably could have won this game as easily as lost it. Its fans will no doubt find plenty to question -- for example, why not start the game with Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, a dynamic scorer, over an average-performing Guillermo Franco? Why did its backline look so shaky? What to do against the perceived better teams in Group A, Uruguay and France, if only a draw was achieved against lowly South Africa?
The Mexican side controlled possession and had more chances to score in the first half, as the South Africans struggled to calm their nerves and find a groove. Striker Giovani Dos Santos put to rest any doubt that he has finally arrived as the player Mexico has long hoped he would become, his two best chances to score coming in the 19th and 60th minute. And Mexico had a goal taken away on an offsides call in the first half.
But South Africa composed itself and changed the momentum in the early part of the second half. Where it could have let the game slip away from them in the first half, Bafana Bafana was a different and more attacking team in the second. The dance number after their goal was worth the price of a ticket itself, sort of an African macarena.
Going forward, Mexico weathered the storm of that opening game, but based on the sentiment that this could be the farthest-advancing Mexican World Cup team ever, it has much to ponder. Clearly it has scoring capability and its strength is up front. South Africa, for its part, showed it is a team that can make the most of limited chances.