JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Mexico coach Javier Aguirre on Thursday insisted his men would not freeze as they go up against hosts South Africa in Friday's World Cup opener - and said he was hoping to get the chance to meet historic South African leader Nelson Mandela.
Carlos Alberto Parreira, Aguirre's opposite number, has promised a hot reception for the Mexicans as the South Africans look to get off to a flier to mark the start of the first ever tournament on African soil.
But "at the end of the day, it's 11 against 11," Aguirre remarked laconically.
Earlier, Aguirre, in his second spell with the Mexicans after repairing some of the damage from a poor early qualifying phase under Sven Goran Eriksson, visited the Soccer City arena in Johannesburg where the two sides will face off in the first Group A match with Uruguay and France to come.
The atmosphere will likely favour the hosts but Aguirre is unmoved.
"Mexico do not fear anybody, we come well prepared. And we want to make history," said the urbane former coach of Atletico Madrid as he looks to become the first man to take the 'Tri' to the quarters outside their homeland, an achievement reached in both 1970 and 1986, the latter when he played for them.
Parreira, a Brazilian, had earlier insisted that his "warriors" would look to give Mexico a "hellish" time of it.
But the Mexicans had an impressive build-up to the tournament that culminated in a 2-1 Brussels triumph over 2006 World Cup winners Italy via goals from Arsenal striker Carlos Vela, and midfielder Alberto Medina.
And Aguirre said "we too are battlers. It will be a fine game and a great duel. But at the end of the day it's 11 against 11 - two teams seeking to win at all costs. It's important to go our and win the group."
Aguirre added it would be an honour to see the iconic Mandela in the stands for the start of the event - even though his entourage say he is only likely to stay for the opening few minutes.
"When I was young I was very interested in current affairs and I read a lot about Mandela and the likes of Desmond Tutu - I admired them for setting an example and for their heroism and it would be a great honour for me to shake hands with Mandela if I can. He is a living icon for what he did for his people and for the world."
|Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira|
for L. Thwala 46'
for S. Pienaar 83'
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