JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Aaron Mokoena will lead hosts South Africa out on Friday against Mexico at Johannesburg's Soccer City as they kick-off the first World Cup to be held in Africa and admits he is feeling the pressure of having to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Of the 32 countries competing in South Africa, North Korea are the only country lower than the Bafana-Bafana on FIFA's ranking system.
And with South Africa, ranked 83rd in the world, drawn in a tough group comprising France, Mexico and Uruguay, they could become the first host nation in World Cup history to exit at the first hurdle.
Portsmouth midfielder Mokoena is well aware of the implications of an embarrassing early exit for his country - especially as President Jacob Zuma expects South Africa to lift the trophy.
The South Africa captain said: "We are all aware we need to do well and there is a degree of pressure but we need to prepare ourselves mentally and physically so we can perform.
"We started our preparation three years ago. We are trying to let people talk so we can do the business on the field - that is what is important to us.
"I know the statistics are there, many coaches and people have opinions but it is just going to depend on the event and how we perform in each game.
"We have players who want to show the world what they are capable of and who need this more than anything. Players who want to go out and do the country proud.
"We have talent in South Africa and a unique style of football. It is important we are ready.
"It is about building, taking it game after game. We want to get to the quarter-finals and from there the sky is the limit.
"The President did tell me to go and win the World Cup, and he was being serious, but that shows you just how much it means to the people of South Africa and how important the next few weeks are going to be."
Mokoena has also dismissed claims the Rainbow Nation are unable to adequately host the tournament, pointing towards the success of the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the Cricket World Cup in 2003 and last year's Confederations Cup.
Mokoena added: "It is going to be a World Cup with an African vibe and atmosphere, as this is the first on the continent.
"There has been a lot of negativity surrounding the build-up from some places but I always say look at the Rugby World Cup, the cricket, the British Lions and the Confederations Cup.
"This is going to be a big event, probably bigger than all of those, but it is possible and we need this World Cup in how much it is going to bring to the continent."
Mokoena remains a divisive figure in his homeland with some fans even celebrating an injury he picked up with Portsmouth earlier in the year, claiming it was a blessing in disguise.
But having won his 100th cap for his country in the pre-tournament friendly against Guatemala, Mokoena is the elder statesman of the national game and his leadership will be crucial as to whether the team succeed or fail.
Mokoena believes the moment when he leads the team out against Mexico on Friday will mark the proudest achievement of his career.
Mokoena said: "I have tried not thinking about it too much but it is difficult to ignore, that moment will come of putting my head and my mind into it.
"Seeing the crowds and the celebration of the start of the tournament will be a beautiful moment and one that will surely live with me forever.
"It is about building on what we have. We showed during the Confederations Cup what we are capable of by reaching the semi-finals and we have to take something from that and become better and stronger and make South Africa proud."
|Ferdinand unsure over Moyes´ late selection tactic|
|Win shows squad depth, says Conte|
|Blanc denies PSG defeat was inevitable|
|Barcelona ´obliged to win´, says Martino|
|Unbeaten Bayern streak doesn´t faze Guardiola|
|Gilardino Toronto-bound as Italian MLS legion grows|
|Manaus stadium built for the heat, says sports secretary|
|Valcke: USA, England in tough groups|
|Ranieri admires lowly Ajaccio|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Barcelona arrest deficit to beat third-tier Cartagena|
|Wenger dismisses complacency fears|
|Primeira Liga: Benfica 2 Arouca 2|
|World Cup draw soundbites: The best of the reaction|
|Scottish Premiership: Motherwell 0 Celtic 5|
|Bundesliga: Nuremberg 1 Mainz 1|
|Ligue 1: Marseille 0 Nantes 1|
|Eredivisie: Utrecht 2 NEC 0|
|Serie A: Bologna 0 Juventus 2|
|Sabella satisfied with ´positive draw´|
|Boateng hails ´dream´ World Cup draw|
|Pekerman confident of Colombia progression|
|Wilmots: No world-class opponents in Belgium´s group|
|Santos gives Greece ´every chance´|
|Last 16 is France aim, says Deschamps|
|Kovac wary of tough FIFA World Cup draw|
|Premier League Preview: Arsenal v Everton|
|Hitzfeld expecting tense FIFA World Cup group|
|Spain not in ´Group of Death´, insists Del Bosque|
|Portugal will fight for progression, Bento says|
|Scolari happy with Brazil draw|
|Low: World Cup focus not just on United States|
|Van Gaal wary of tough group|
|Hoddle: Tough group can boost England|
|Prandelli happy with FIFA World Cup draw|
|Pele: We will make the final|
|Australia coach excited despite horror draw|
|Hodgson upbeat despite tough FIFA World Cup draw|
|Hangeland set for spell on the sidelines|
|Spain grouped with Netherlands at Brazil 2014 World Cup|
|Serie A Preview: Inter v Parma|
|World Cup Draw: Group G|
|World Cup Draw: Group H|
|World Cup Draw: Group F|
|World Cup Draw: Group E|
|World Cup Draw: Group D|
|World Cup Draw: Group C|
|World Cup Draw: Group B|
|Hughes confident of ending Chelsea hoodoo|
|Mourinho frustrated with fixture congestion|
|Moyes coy on Van Persie comeback|
|Enyeama extends Lille contract|
|Premier League Preview: Fulham v Aston Villa|
|Two sacked by Whitehawk following match-fixing charge|
|Lucio bemoans Inter errors|
|Pellegrini calm over Kompany fitness|
|Coloccini committed to Newcastle|
|Falcao to miss Ajaccio clash|
|Ronaldo set for Tuesday return|
|A-League Wrap: Perth back on track, Brisbane win in Adelaide|
|Allardcye warns of Suarez danger|
|Fully-fit Kagawa confident of improvement|
|Mandela´s ´hero´ Radebe hails leader|
|Rodgers: Sterling rejuvinated by rest|
|Reina: I´d help Mascherano make Napoli move|
|Pochettino confident despite injury blows|
|Martinez eyes Everton additions|
|Kompany desperate to stay fit|
|Alves: Comparisons to Guardiola´s Barcelona unfair|
|Bendtner vital for Arsenal - Arteta|
|Parreira: Mandela was ´a god´ to South Africans|
|Colombia Primera A Wrap: Atletico Nacional reach final|
|Alonso the key for Real, says Ancelotti|
|Karanka rejected Mourinho, Chelsea|
|Garde left disappointed by home draw|
|FIFA should reconsider seedings, says Prandelli|
|Mihajlovic given selection headaches|
|Tributes flow for Mandela|
|Matthaus: Germany ´definitely´ World Cup contenders|
|Zidane hails ´monstrous´ Ronaldo|
|Ligue 1: Lyon 1 Toulouse 1|
|Coppa Italia: Sampdoria 4 Verona 1|
|UAE Pro League Wrap: Al Shabab fail to capitalise on Al Ahli slip up|
|No plan B for Sao Paulo stadium - Blatter|
|Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace v Cardiff City|
|Premier League Preview: West Brom v Norwich City|
|Pulis eyes quality over quantity|
|Martino will not rush Messi recovery|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Enyeama closing on record, Nantes face tough test|
|FIFA World Cup winners to pocket $35m|
|Premier League Preview: Southampton v Manchester City|
|Premier League Preview: Stoke City v Chelsea|
|Footballers charged in match-fixing probe|
|Suarez vindicated for staying at Liverpool, says Rodgers|
|Klopp targets ´result machines´ Leverkusen|
|Premier League Preview: Liverpool v West Ham|
|Pardew expects Manchester United reaction|
|Premier League Preview: Sunderland v Tottenham|
|Hamren extends Sweden deal|
|Del Nido sentenced to seven years|
|Bundesliga Preview: Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen|
|Hughton: Norwich must forget Suarez show|
|Tomkins eager to face Liverpool strikeforce|
|Platini talks up sin bin proposal|
|Ronaldo keen to avoid World Cup favourites|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Paris Saint-Germain v Sochaux|
|Premier League Preview: Manchester United v Newcastle United|
|Martino accepts responsibility for Barca defeats|
|Dossena confident ahead of Spurs test|
|Montpellier coach Fernandez resigns|
|Wenger: Too early to dismiss United challenge|
|Mackay hails tireless Campbell|
|Robben ruled out for six weeks with knee injury|
|Berbatov committed to Fulham, claims Meulensteen|
|Villas-Boas lauds Lloris for bouncing back|
|Bundesliga Preview: Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich|
|Golden boy Pogba must keep his head down, says Conte|
|Pellegrini tips Aguero to extend goal glut|
|Landreau proud of Ligue 1 landmark|
|Moyes unsure over Van Persie return|
|Suarez grounded over Liverpool prospects|
|Robben set for scans on knee gash|
|J.League Preview: Hiroshima can still defend title|
|Blanc hails Evian´s ´heart´ after shock PSG loss|
|Copa Sudamericana: Ponte Preta 1 Lanus 1|
|Pruis denies safety concerns for Brazil 2014|
|World Cup stadiums will be ready - Brazil´s sports minister|
|West Brom spirit pleases Clarke|
|Pellegrini enjoys away tonic|
|Coppa Italia Wrap: Inter survive scare to advance|
|Ligue 1 Wrap: PSG suffer shock loss, Landreau makes history|
|Mackay hails ´brave´ Cardiff point|
|Laudrup delighted with Shelvey flexibility|
|Eredivisie Wrap: Heerenveen, Go Ahead leave it late|
|Seedorf tips Brazil to win World Cup|
|Hughton salutes Suarez, slams Norwich defending|
|Rodgers hails ´incredible´ Suarez after four-goal salvo|
|No excuses from frustrated Moyes|
|Pardew has ref rage over Webb after Swansea loss|
|Football League Wrap: Derby go fourth, Wigan lose again|
|Meulensteen bullish after Spurs defeat|