Heading into this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, Mexico was one of the favorites to be playing in the championship game on 24 July.
However, when they opened their tournament run Friday night against guest nation South Africa in front of an extremely partisan Mexican crowd that filled The Home Depot Center to capacity, the tricolores enjoyed the run of plan and scoring chances throughout the contest, but were on the short end of a 2-1 score line.
The South African side was paced by goals from Philip Davis and Elrio Van Heerden in the 28th and 41st minutes, respectively. For Mexico, their goal came in the 83rd minute from the head of Francisco Rodriguez.
The game really was a story of two contrasting styles of play. The Mexican side came out looking to attack from the opening whistle, while the South Africans were content to defend and counter attack at the opportune time.
Both South African goals game from counters. The first goal resulted after Siyabango Nomvete dribbled through the Mexican penalty area drawing a corner kick. On the ensuing play, Van Heerden played the corner into the box where Lucas Thwala flicked the ball to the back post. Lurking there was Davis who headed home the opening goal off the inside of the post.
Later in the half, it was Nomvete and Van Heerden who connected again from a counter. Nomvete was sent clear on a long ball out of midfield. Nomvete collected the ball then played a perfectly weighted ball to Van Heerden at the back post. His first time shot doubled the advantage for South Africa and would prove to be the game winner.
Coming out of the locker room down two goals, the Mexicans effectively pinned South Africa into their own half for the entire second half. Chance after chance was wasted by Mexico, and that really was their undoing, as the North American side hit woodwork three times on the night.
The constant pressure put on by the Mexicans didn't pay dividends until the 83rd minute when Rodriguez converted a Luis Ernesto cross from the right side with a diving header into the lower corner of the net.
South Africa will take tonight's win into Sunday's game against Jamaica. Mexico will now have to try and recover from tonight in their next match against CONCACAF rivals Guatemala.
08.07.2003: Carson, California USA; The Home Depot Center (A: 27000)
SOUTH AFRICA-MEXICO 2:1 (2:0)
SFA - Phillip EVANS 28'
SFA - Elrio VAN HEERDEN 41'
MEX - Francisco RODRIGUEZ 83'
SFA: 1-Calvin Marlin, 2-Lucky Lekgwathi, 3-Lungisani Ndlela, 4-Philip Evans 5-Ricardo Katza, 6-Sibiniso Gaxa, 8-Siyabinga Siphika, 9-Lebohang Mokoena (Reagan Noble 65'), 11-Elrio Van Heerden (Craig Bianchi 91+'), 14-Siyabango Nomvete (Gift Leremi 71'), 19-Lucas Thwala
DT: Stuart BAXTER
MEX: 2-Francisco Rodriguez, 3-Carlos Arnaldo Salcido, 4-Ricardo Osario, 5-Israel Lopez (Luis Ernesto Perez 71'), 7-Antonio Naelson (Omar Bravo 53'), 8-Rafael Marquez Lugo (Albert Medina 46'), 9-Jared Borgetti, 12-Jose de Jesue Corona, 14-Gonzalo Pineda, 17-Rafael Marquez Lugo, 22-Hector Altamirano
DT: Ricardo LA VOLPE
SOA - Lungisani Ndlela 20'
MEX- Francisco Rodriguez 33'
MEX- Jared Borgetti 56'
SOA- Siyabonga Siphika 75'
SOA- Gift Leremi 92+'
Sent off / Expulsado: