Group A looks too close to call after two draws on the opening day, but hosts South Africa and Uruguay should have a clearer idea of their destinies at this FIFA World Cup™ after what promises to be a hotly contested encounter in the heartland of Tshwane/Pretoria. While it is far-fetched to suggest that their Loftus Versfeld Stadium encounter will be decisive, a victory for either side would go a long way to booking a place in the Round of 16.
They may be riding a wave of optimism inside the host country, but Carlos Alberto Parreira's South Africa will face a tough task against Uruguay. In their opening game against France, the Uruguayans showed that they possess the ability to contain teams and launch dangerous counter-attacks. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has hinted that against South Africa they will be more adventurous compared to that safety-first approach.
Uruguay have been preparing in Kimberley, a town famous for the surrounding gold mines, but it is goals that Uruguay want after their stalemate with France hence Tabarez's expection decision to go with an extra striker in Edinson Cavani. The South Africans too want to improve on their finishing after the 1-1 draw with Mexico, where striker Katlego Mphela missed a glorious chance in the dying moments, watching in agony as his shot shaved the upright.
Still, South Africa gave their millions of home supporters cause for optimism with their opening display against Mexico. When pressed against the ropes in the first 20 minutes, they were able to absorb the pressure and, having overcome the stage fright that gripped them early on, found a head of steam in the second half. It was a performance that served notice that the hosts should not be taken lightly and the fact that they were less than 10 minutes from victory against an organised and polished Mexican side earned them rave reviews.
Players to watch
Itumeleng Khune v Diego Forlan
South Africa's exciting young goalkeeper, Itumeng Khune, is in the form of his life, as seen by his flying save from Alessandro Dos Santos in the second half of the game against Mexico. He showed his importance to Bafana Bafana in that Opening Match and may need to be at his best again to deny a Uruguay front line including Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan. Although expected to play behind the front two, Forlan will be hustling for an opportunity to open his account after missing a late scoring chance against France. South Africa showed a lack of concentration when conceding an equaliser to Mexico and Forlan will be looking to exploit any such weaknesses.
7 – the number of goals scored between the two sides in their two previous meetings. All the goals came during the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup match in Saudi Arabia where South Africa lost 4-3.
What they say
"I think we broke the ice [against Mexico]. We will be much better against Uruguay because now we know what we're going to get and what to expect. I think there are some things that we need to fix as well. We need to concentrate until the last minute and we need to take our chances in a game like this because they are a really good team," South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar.
"All matches are different – now we're facing South Africa, then Mexico, they will all be different, all difficult games. Hopefully we will be able to get more control of the ball; that way we will be able to run less and rest more, and manage the flow of the game better. South Africa is a team with good players, fast players that can counter and come out very quickly so we are going to have to be very careful," Uruguay forward Diego Forlan.
Have your say
Who do you think will prevail in the midfield battle between the hard-tackling Uruguayans and the skilful South Africans? Can Bafana Bafana get their first win of their FIFA World Cup?