South Africa’s high hopes

(BBC Online) South Africa international Siphiwe Tshabalala says beating Mexico in their opening clash is the key to reaching the second round of the World Cup.

Hosts Bafana Bafana kick off the 2010 finals on 11 June against the Central Americans in Johannesburg’s 90,000 seater Soccer City stadium.

The World Cup hosts then meet two-time winners Uruguay in Pretoria five days later, before finishing their group against 1998 champions France, on 22 June.

“The opening game will be exciting but important because we’ll greatly enhance our qualifying chances if we win,” the Kaizer Chiefs star told BBC Sport.

“Mexico is the key game in the group, as the first game is always important, and if we can win we’ll get momentum for the remaining two matches.”

The view is shared by former Bafana Bafana star Mark Williams, who scored both goals as South Africa won the 1996 Nations Cup on home soil – beating Tunisia 2-0 in the final.

“It’s not going to be easy but the Mexico clash will be the turning point because we’ll have one foot in the second round if we win,” he told BBC Sport.

“Playing at home will help us a great deal, as it’s a great of way of giving the players confidence, and when you put on the jersey you just want to do it for the nation.”

South Africa’s Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has already likened qualifying from Group A to scaling Mount Everest, while constantly stressing the need for hard work.