Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said his side must beat France in their next 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ match to keep alive their hopes of making the knockout phase after being held to a 1-1 draw by the hosts on Friday.
Aguirre was bitterly disappointed his side failed to convert their first-half domination into goals while South Africa grew in confidence in front of 84,490 supporters at a packed Soccer City stadium in the Group A clash. The hosts took the lead when midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala drilled home his shot after a superb pass from play-maker Steven Pienaar on 55 minutes split the Mexican defence.
Only a 79th-minute equaliser by Mexico's Rafael Marquez denied Bafana Bafana the dream start to their FIFA World Cup campaign, but South Africa nearly poached a win in added time when striker Katlego Mphela hit the post. "Both teams will go away with a bittersweet taste and now we are forced to beat France," said Aguirre, whose side face the French in Polokwane on 17 June.
"I think we had a very good first half, but we weren't capable of really finishing our chances," said the 60-year-old. "The team was confident we could score and win the match, but we missed a few chances and things got complicated after they scored. The South African goalkeeper was really great and I wouldn't say we panicked, but we definitely got a little anxious after conceding the goal."
Despite South Africa being 66 places below their opponents in the FIFA/Coca-Cola world rankings, Aguirre believes the home side were buoyed by playing in front of their own supporters. "The FIFA rankings are relative, they give you an idea, but South Africa were playing at home with all their fans behind them, so I wasn't surprised by their good performance," said Aguirre.
The coach said his side's inability to convert their numerous chances into goals hurt them as the Bafana Bafana grew in strength after they get over their initial nervy start playing in front of a passionate crowd. "I was surprised we went into half-time without scoring," he said. "I think in the first half, we were able to impose our game and we didn't give them room to manoeuvre. But in the second-half, they were very good on the counter-attack and some of their players were very fast, so we probably deserved the draw."
The coach says there are no plans to change the unusual 3-4-3 formation and wants to show some faith in his strike force of Arsenal's Carlos Vela, Galatasaray's Giovani Dos Santos and West Ham's Guillermo Franco. "Mexico will be putting in the same approach, we have played like this for the last 20-odd games, this is how we know how to play," he said.
"There is room for improvement and you suffer if you don't get the goals, so we suffered quite a bit today," the coach went on. "We have to score more goals if we are going to make the last 16. We are quite confident that we can win our next two matches. We didn't win today, but we really must beat France, we have to go out there and win."