A joyous day for South Africa and Siphiwe Tshabalala, but not a perfect result.
South Africa held a 1-0 lead on a goal by Tshabalala, but Mexico's Rafael Marquez scored in the 79th minute and settled for a 1-1 draw yesterday before 84,000 horn-blaring fans.
The match followed a day of celebration throughout all of Africa, though the excitement was tempered by the death of Nelson Mandela's great-granddaughter in a car accident on the eve of the opener, forcing the 91-year-old former South African president to miss the game and ceremonies in Soccer City in Johannesburg.
Tshabalala had given the host nation a dream start, finishing off an excellent move in the 55th minute to set off wild celebrations.
"We could easily have won the game," Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said. "All in all at the end a draw is a fair result. We are still in the competition. This group is very tough."
France and Uruguay played to a listless 0-0 draw in a later game played at Cape Town, leaving each team in Group A with a single point.
Mexico attacked in force from the kickoff and the hosts could have been a goal down within the first 2 minutes when goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune fumbled a low cross. Giovani dos Santos had a chance for an easy shot but South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena blocked it, and when Carlos Vela put the ball in the net from a flicked-on corner, it was ruled offside.
Early in the second half, Teko Modise found Tshabalala clear of the Mexican defense, and the winger let fly with a powerful leftfooted shot.
"It was a great goal, very special for me," Tshabalala said.