World Cup: Mexico not worried about officiating in opening game
It's probably no secret that FIFA, the people behind the World Cup, will be cheering for South Africa in Friday's tournament opener against Mexico at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.
This is the first time the World Cup, the world's most-watched sporting event, will be played in Africa. If the host country goes out in the group play, as most observers expect it will, it would be an embarrassing result since no host country has failed to make it to the second round.
That has led some to wonder just how far FIFA might go to ensure a good result for Bafana Bafana. When South Africa beat Colombia in a World Cup warmup at Soccer City two weeks ago, for example, both of its goals came after questionable fouls against the visitors.
Mexico Coach Javier Aguirre wouldn't go down that path.
"We don't believe for one second that the officiating will be a factor," he said. "We believe in ourselves and we're not going to think that the referee -- we're not going to think that luck -- will be more important than our rivals."
Mexico defender Jonny Magallon agreed after learning that Uzbekistan's Ravshan Irmatov had been assigned as the referee for Friday's opening match.
"The referee does not play. On the pitch, it's 11 versus 11," he said. "Referees are capable. We know they can make mistakes, but that is not their intention."
Aguirre said he believes FIFA is more interested in good soccer than the performance of particular teams.
"FIFA is interested in the best teams winning," he said. "And if Mexico demonstrates it's better, then it has to win regardless of the local conditions or anything else.'
-- Kevin Baxter in Johannesburg, South Africa