Johannesburg: South Africa woke up with a smug satisfaction on Saturday despite only drawing in the opening World Cup match.
The 1-1 draw for the host nation in the tournament’s first match against Mexico at Soccer City on Friday has been hailed as a successful start, even though South Africa’s team spent much of the match on the back foot and provided just occasional glimpses of their potential.
While there were no scenes of wild celebration in the streets after the stalemate, the country seemed more pleased than disappointed with the manner in which their team played.
There was generous praise and enthusiastic analysis across various morning television programs and in Saturday’s newspaper editions.
“World Cup has begun and SA make a big point,” said Johannesburg’s Saturday Star, claiming the performance “showed we are not a nation of unrealistic dreamers.”
The team’s key players also looked pleased with the share of the spoils and still hopeful that the country’s ambition of getting past the first round could be realized.
This was despite coming agonizingly close to a famous win, hitting the woodwork in the last minute, but ultimately being let down by a pensive start to the match and some erratic defending.
“We have still got a chance, we are not disappointed with the result, we are encouraged,” key midfield playmaker Teko Modise told Reuters.
“It was unbelievable, the people, the atmosphere, it was really emotional, I’ll never forget it in my life,” added his midfield partner Steven Pienaar of the opening day atmosphere created by a crowd of 84,490 spectators,
“It was normal to be nervous because it’s the first game. But after that we started relaxing and playing. Our hopes are still high, we just have to build from here,” Pienaar added
Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said he thought four points would still be enough to qualify for the knockout round, a theme he has espoused for several weeks now.
South Africa next meet Uruguay on Wednesday in Pretoria and complete their Group A program against favourites France in Bloemfontein on June 22.
All four sides have a single point after Friday’s opening matches.