World Cup Odds and Picks: Mexico Vs. South Africa Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 6/9/2010
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History is usually not on the side of South Africa.
The architect of one of the most oppressive and repulsive societies of the past century, South Africa has long been a black sheep in the global community. The nation was banned from international soccer for more than two decades in the 70s and 80s, a symbolic gesture of disapproval from the rest of the “civilized” soccer-loving world. Yet now, less than 20 years withdrawn from the last throes of apartheid, South Africa is on the eve of hosting the largest sporting event on the planet.
An understanding of South Africa’s long and bloody history may waffle between a source of shame and a source of strength for the first African nation to host the World Cup. But the moment that the 2010 World Cup begins a more pertinent history will be behind and beneficial to the national club, Bafana Bafana, on the pitch.
South Africa will kick off the 2010 World Cup on its home soil, hosting Mexico at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, June 11 at Soccer City in Johannesburg. And they do so wielding the most powerful advantage that any club will have in Africa this summer: the home-field edge. And past performances have displayed that the home team has an inside track on advancing to the Knockout Stage, which would be a tremendous victory for South African soccer.
The host nation has advanced out of the opening round in all 15 of the post-World War II World Cups. While a majority of the host teams were traditional soccer powers, nations like Italy, France and Germany, for example, have hosted the Cup in the last two decades, we have even seen more lowly regarded clubs get a significant boost from playing in front of an entire nation’s worth of fans.
In 2002 South Korea and Japan co-hosted the World Cup. And despite the fact that neither national team was ranked higher than 40 heading into the Cup, both teams managed to go 2-0-1 in Group Play and advance into the Knockout Stage. Korea actually went on to beat Italy and Spain in the Knockout Stage and quarters before falling to the eventual runner-up, Germany, in the semifinals. It was truly a dizzying performance by the Koreas and was significantly aided by their home-field advantage.
We’ve already seen the impact that playing on South African soil has had on Bafana Bafana. They hosted last year’s Confederations Cup and, despite winning just one game, managed a fourth-place finish in the eight-team field. They also impressed with game efforts against Brazil in the semifinals (losing 1-0) and red-hot Spain in the finals (losing 3-2, despite taking an early 1-0 lead).
That said, home field is nice, but can it really make up for the severe talent disparity that South Africa faces in one of the two most competitive groups in the field? They have only managed ties against Japan and Jamaica, and they actually lost to Iceland 1-0 in the lead up to the Cup.
Mexico is clearly the more talented, more renowned team in this matchup. This is their fifth straight World Cup appearance and their 13th overall. Compare that to just two World Cup appearances for South Africa and that just begins to quantify the difference between these two clubs. Mexico spent the first half of this decade as an international power, consistently ranked in the Top 10 between 2001 and 2006. South Africa’s highest FIFA ranking was a cameo at No. 16 back in August of 1996.
Bafana Bafana did spend time rated consistently in the Top 30 between 1997 and 2003, but they have seen a slow and steady decline in their overall skill over the last five years. Coaching issues and player turnover has led to a sharp decline in play on the pitch and there has to be a load of pressure on this team to perform this summer.
The host nation is presently ranked No. 90 in the world while Mexico is No. 17. These two teams have met three previous times. Mexico won 4-0 in 1993 and 4-2 in 2000. But South Africa actually beat the Mexicans 2-1 in 2005 at the Gold Cup in Los Angeles.
Mexico is entering the World Cup playing some of its best soccer. They have won 14 of 18 international matches and after reaching the lowest ranking in the history of their soccer team, falling to No. 33 last July, the El Tri have worked their way back into the Top 20. They have young, aggressive players on the attack and they should be able to exploit a soft South African defense.
However, despite its skill edge Mexico is a team that knows all about home-field advantage. They utilized the oppressive altitude of Estadio Azteca to their advantage during a shaky qualifying period. El Tri has traditionally not been a strong road performer and this game is being played two worlds away. “Consistency” and “Mexican soccer” have never been synonymous, which could open us up for an early upset. And although they do have the experience advantage their weak goalkeeping is always something to give a backer pause.
Mexico vs. South Africa World Cup Odds:
South Africa is posted as a small dog at +105 and Mexico is situated at -110. If you bet with the ‘Draw’ the odds are set at South Africa +190, Mexico +175 and a ‘Draw’ at +225.
Mexico vs. South Africa Picks and Predictions: Take ‘Under’ 2.0
This is a critical game for both teams and the winner should be determined by which group is able to put the emotion of the opener – with all of the pregame hype, festivities, and the fervor of the crowd – aside and lay its best ball. Group A is one of the most difficult in the entire tournament and points are going to be at a premium.
This is the first game of the tournament, so obviously there are going to be some nerves. With all of the build up and the regality that will be on display just prior to kickoff I expect a slow start all around. South Africa really, really, really struggles to score and I think that will be the case here. Also, I feel like the home crowd is going to have the biggest impact on the South African defense. And while Mexico has plenty of offensive flair, I think they’ll lose some time early in the game while both teams work out the kinks and while Bafana Bafana feeds off the crowd.
Both teams will settle in late in the first half and the last 15 minutes of the first half will determine this wager. If we get into the middle of the second half and this game is 0-0 then I think both clubs will start thinking about defending and simply taking the point. I think that this game will go 1-0 for Mexico. Their offense is simply too strong.
But the home team always catches magic in the Cup, so it’s hard to bet against the hosts in such an emotion-filled opener. Five of South Africa’s last six World Cup qualifiers saw two goals or less, as well as 12 of 13 games and 20 of 24 games dating back to March of 2009 have seen less than two goals. Mexico has scored and allowed a ton of goals over the last six months. But the home team will set the tempo here and this one stays ‘under’.
Robert Ferringo will be releasing rated selections on the 2010 World Cup this summer. Robert is a long-time soccer aficionado and one of the most exciting handicappers in the industry, and he guarantees a profit through the entirety of the tournament. Sign up today and get on board the Victory Train!
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