The atmosphere in the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg was as raucous as promised, but the home nation's passionate fans were not enough to put them past a lively Mexico. Later, France and Uruguay drew as well.
Tshabalala's shot was just too good
Siphiwe Tshabalala put his name into the history books on Friday, notching the first goal of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The 25-year-old Soweto native, who plays for hometown club Kaizer Chiefs, put his national team in front in the 55th minute, having been set free by a finely weighted pass from Kagisho Dikgacoi.
Tshabalala received the ball in stride, and let loose a hard, accurate left-footed shot from the left corner of the area - one which almost hit the upper far corner.
Tshabalala knew he'd scored a big one
The 90,000-plus South African fans in attendance, who were already making a serious racket, erupted. The low rumble of the vuvuzelas which had dominated the match became a roar.
Prior to the South African goal, Mexico had had the better of things. In the first half their possession had topped 60 percent, they had tested South African keeper Itumele Khune on a number of occasions, and had had a goal called back on a close offside call.
It was not, however, until the 79th minute that Mexico would create the chance that would make their good possession play pay off.
Substitute Andres Guardado's cross from the left flank looped over the South African defense and found an unmarked Rafael Marquez at the far post. The Barcelona reserve collected it and shot confidently with his right to make it 1-1.
Marquez cancelled out South Africa's lead
South Africa had a golden chance to seal a better result in injury time, when Katlego Mphela snapped up a bouncing clearance from his own keeper and found himself through one-on-one with the keeper. His meek shot, however, bounced off the post harmlessly.
Anelka and co. failed to break through on Friday
Later on Friday, across the country in Capetown, France and Uruguay played out a goalless draw.
Uruguay's vaunted attack, featuring prolific scorers in Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez of Ajax, couldn't get on the board, and as the match went on their teammates began to draw on the old Uruguayan specialty of physical play.
Substitute Nicolas Lodeiro, in fact, needed only 16 minutes of action for the sky blues to accrue two yellow cards - and thus a dismissal with nine minutes to go in the match.
But France's superiority in possession, shots on goal, and eventually men on the pitch added up to naught as attackers like Sindey Govou and Thierry Henry wasted good chances.
Author: Matt Hermann
Editor: Chuck Penfold