JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said hosts South Africa were ready for 'war' against Mexico Friday in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup.
The clash before a sell-out 95,000 crowd at Soccer City stadium will signal the start of the 64-game tournament and the first World Cup staged on African soil.
"An opening game - this is war," 67-year-old Brazilian grandfather Parreira told a news conference at the match venue on a chilly, overcast day in the South African financial hub.
"But we have worked hard. Above all, my team has formed an identity. I have tried to give this team a Brazilian touch.
"What I saw against Denmark pleased me (a 1-0 friendly win last week). The team for the Mexico match will look like the one that beat the Danes. The players know and they are ready," he said.
Striker Katlego Mphela scored the lone goal in that match and raised to 12 the number of matches South Africa have gone unbeaten since 1994 World Cup-winning coach Parreira returned to the post last November.
"The players also know Mexico will want to impose its aggressive style. This is a team which plays with speed, a dangerous team, but my boys have been warned," stressed Parreira.
His warning came after assistant Pitso Mosimane labelled the central Americans "high risk takers" ahead of an intriguing group completed by former world champions France and Uruguay, who clash in Cape Town later Friday.
"Mexico fear nobody. They are prepared to attack with eight players pushing into their opponents' half. They are an awesome side, but we know what to expect and are ready."
Parreira admitted the pressure on the hosts increases every day and the Aaron Mokoena-captained squad was feeling it as football fever takes a vice-like grip on South Africa.
"Of course players feel that (pressure) and we can understand. The South African people have waited such a long time for this World Cup," explained Parreira.
"There is also joy and happiness tied to the tournament and that is why I tell my players to revel in the atmosphere and forget about the negative pressure.
"First, we want to win the opening game. We want to give joy to our supporters. To cross the group stage would be great. Our FIFA classification (83) does not correspond with the value of the team.
"The World Cup has to permit us to bring the ranking much higher. We have to leave an inheritance in order that South Africa becomes a great football nation."
|Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira|
for L. Thwala 46'
for S. Pienaar 83'
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