Preview: RSA-URU

What: South Africa vs. Uruguay

When: Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Tshwane/Pretoria

TV: ESPN, Univision

Has there been a better moment in this World Cup than Siphiwe Tshabalala’s emotional opening goal for Bafana Bafana? Not even close. Even though Mexico eventually rallied for the 1-1 draw, the hosts’ opening strike set the message that they aren’t about to give up three easy points. Uruguay, meanwhile, did what they do best in a draw with France on opening day: buckle down on defense. Both these teams need three points to gain some traction in the group, but who’s going to give it up?


As expected, the hosts came out last Friday with their hearts on their sleeves. All of South Africa responded in kind, feeding off of Tshabalala’s goal and nearly lifting the team to an unlikely win over Mexico. But the draw left South Africa wanting and - more importantly – locked in a four-way battle for the group lead.


The question now falls on whether Bafana Bafana can get another surprising result against Uruguay, a team that dug in for a solid draw against France. South Africa is the least-talented team in this group, and they’ll go only as far as their emotion takes them. Against Uruguay, they’ll be hard-pressed to earn another electric goal like Tshabalala’s.


It’s never pretty, but Oscar Tabarez’s crew gets it done. Los Charruas earned one of the first round’s most respectable results, bending but never breaking against a French team that clearly outmatched them in talent. Uruguay is physical and defensive-minded, and unapologetically so.


Despite their defensive grit, however, Uruguay will inevitably need some offense to get out the group. They generated only a handful of genuine scoring chances against France, and were more than happy to retreat into a defensive posture when the heat was on. A match against South Africa is Uruguay’s best chance for some easy points, because a finale against Mexico comes with no guarantees.

Players to Watch

South Africa: Katlego Mphela. The glory went to Tshabalala, but Mphela had his fingerprints all over South Africa’s opening match. He earned the assist on the team’s lone goal, and nearly toppled Mexico in stoppage time when his shot slammed off the post.

Uruguay: Diego Forlán. If Uruguay does in fact find the back of the net sometime at the World Cup, Forlán will probably be the man to do it. He threatened only a few times against France, but he should see a few more openings against a South Africa side that looked porous against Mexico.

Final Analysis

South Africa proved in the opener they’re no easy out, but Uruguay pack just as much wallop as Mexico. If Bafana Bafana can once again feed off their frenzied following, anything’s possible. But expect Uruguay to bank three key points.

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