His team may have been denied victory by a late Mexico equaliser but South Africa goalscorer Siphiwe Tshabalala insisted the tournament hosts' performance in an exciting 1-1 draw in the FIFA World Cup™'s Opening Match draw had provided an important morale boost.
"We are still in this competition," Tshabalala, who was voted Budweiser Man of the Match, told FIFA.com. "The good thing is, we can build from this performance today."
South Africa's next Group A assigment is against Uruguay at Loftus Stadium in Tshane/ Pretoria next Wednesday and Tshabalala added: "We are leaving Soccer City with our heads up. We now know that we can compete with some of the best players in the world. The most important thing was to get confidence, and I have a feeling that out of this result we got that confidence. We have to improve in some areas, but I’m sure we will use the next few days to work on those areas."
South Africa were put under pressure by a positive Mexico side in the first half but took the lead through Tshabala's emphatic strike ten minutes after the restart. It was a stunning goal to mark his 50th appearance for his country – and one Tshabala will never forget. "I think that one is very special, it probably ranks amongst the most important goals in my career."
After Rafael Marquez cancelled out Bafana Bafana's lead with ten minutes remaining, South Africa striker Katlego Mphela nearly grabbed all three points for the hosts but saw his strike strike the upright. Tshabalala added: "It was a very tough game for us, we played one of the best teams in the world. We could have won the match towards the end, but that's football. They have a lot of experienced players and they put us under a lot of pressure, but we managed to contain them. Obviously, we would have loved to win it, but we got a point, that is better than nothing."
In his post-match comments, Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira attributed his team's slow start in the match to stage fright. Tshabalala admitted that they took time to find their feet and adjust to the high tempo established by the Mexicans.
"It was a fast game, you could see from the first minute that Mexico wanted to play a quick game and that had us under pressure in the first few minutes," he said. "But we recovered in time. I think once the guys settled, we started to control possession and the game. We knew that we had to close them down quickly in order to be effective and we did just that."