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."
|Everton profited from ´harsh´ refereeing, claims Delaney|
|We will get much better, Guardiola warns rivals|
|Ibrahimovic turned down €100m China deal - Raiola|
|Everton 1 Crystal Palace 1: Benteke cancels out Lukaku opener|
|Rashford looking to emulate Ronaldo at Manchester United|
|Managers given bad name by Allardyce scandal - Moyes|
|Pagliara claims he lied to Telegraph over bungs|
|Dyche excited by Arsenal challenge|
|Mazzarri wary of unleashing Success until he is fully fit|
|Moyes stands by criticism of players|
|Guardiola marvels at amazing Ryder Cup experience|
|Mathieu and Deschamps ´exchange´ gives Mangala recall|
|Retirement threat just ´erratic´ Tevez being dramatic - Joorabchian|
|Dani Alves wants Champions League glory with Juventus|
|Guardiola: Football fans can enjoy Tottenham|
|Ranieri calls for consistency from Leicester|
|Low missing out on ´dream´ player in Castro - Tuchel|
|Mata: I never had problems with Mourinho|
|Conte wants failures to motivate Chelsea|
|Pochettino rules out ´impossible´ England switch|
|Emery pleased with Ben Arfa attitude|
|Gundogan returns for Germany after lengthy absence|
|Terry out again as Chelsea prepare for Hull|
|Hasselbaink refutes corruption allegations|
|Robben to start against Cologne, suggests Ancelotti|
|Prolific Callejon called into Spain squad|
|Hull City offer ´keeps changing´ - Phelan|
|Krueger: Black allegations do not directly affect Southampton|
|Wenger optimistic over Coquelin recovery|
|Hughes focused after Mourinho backing|
|Wenger open to England job|
|Klopp eyes retirement before 60|
|Wenger the pioneer battles on within his own legacy|
|Lukaku: I am not on Suarez´s level yet|
|Ibrahimovic is tremendous even if he does not score - Mourinho|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Olimpia, Honduras Progreso claim key wins|
|Astra expected hungover Roma - Spalletti|
|United fixture list a ´poisoned gift´ - Mourinho|
|Ronaldo back for ´stronger´ Portugal|
|Dembele can be next Drogba - Rodgers|
|Mourinho wanted Pogba at Chelsea, says Raiola|
|Puel pleased with ´good point´ in Israel|
|Mourinho not ´over the moon´ with United wins|
|Southampton investigating Eric Black allegations|
|Rodgers: Celtic would challenge at the top in England|
|Ibrahimovic expects more from United|
|Manchester United 1 Zorya 0: Ibrahimovic header earns Mourinho´s men narrow win|
|De Boer blasts Inter for lack of focus|
|Zarate reveals message to ill wife after goalscoring return|
|Raffael suffers fresh injury setback|
|Hapoel Be´er Sheva 0 Southampton 0: Saints´ winning run comes to an end|
|Sparta Prague 3 Inter 1: De Boer´s side humbled in Europa League again|
|Police to review corruption allegations after Telegraph sting|
|Brady hails Wenger as ´possibly the best ever´ Gunners boss|
|Yacob signs new West Brom deal|
|Guidolin prioritising Swansea improvement over his future|
|Sakho outburst has been dealt with – Klopp|
|Bilic sorry for Allardyce in ´very sad´ week for English football|
|Laporte saga nears conclusion as defender earns France call-up|
|Everton are exceeding expectations – Koeman|
|Wenger could be tempted by an international offer, says ex-assistant|
|No excuses for Liverpool this time, says Klopp|
|Rashford left out of England Under-21 squad|
|Boro must pick up where they left off - Karanka|
|Matuidi could still join Juventus, says Raiola|
|Pardew anticipates battle of the Belgians|
|Legia Warsaw to face Real Madrid behind closed doors|
|England job would be the pinnacle - Pardew|
|Wright sacked by Barnsley|
|Bilic defends West Ham team night out|
|Ramsey withdrawal was Arsenal´s call - Coleman|
|LMA demand ´immediate full disclosure´ of corruption evidence|
|´My answer would be a big fat no´ - Coleman rules out taking England job|
|Leeds dismiss Cellino sting as ´non-story´|
|Gabigol, Rashford and Sanches among Golden Boy nominees|
|Keane slams Arsenal: Half their players will have gloves on soon|
|´Special´ Man City draw a career highlight, says Gordon|
|Southgate admits England situation is ´not ideal´|
|England should have gone for O´Neill, says Shilton|
|PSG´s powers of recovery impress Cavani|
|Howe ´absolutely committed´ to Bournemouth amid England links|
|Man City proved character against Celtic, says Zabaleta|
|Walcott: Sanchez partnership bodes well for Arsenal´s season|
|MLS Review: DC, Impact on track for play-offs|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Tigres, Dallas left waiting|
|Central Sanchez pleases Wenger|
|Barca felt Messi absence - Busquets|
|Martino knew Messi would come out of retirement|
|Shilton never convinced by Allardyce|
|Degenek replaced by Giannou for Socceroos|
|Griezmann will still take penalties - Simeone|
|Simeone proud of ´one of the best´ wins|
|Godin suffers sprained ankle ligament|
|West Ham receive positive news over injured duo|
|Robson: Four wins for Southgate and he´s an England contender|
|Gunes rues Besiktas´ inability to see off Dynamo|
|Sarri: Late goals leave bitter taste|
|Borussia Monchengladbach were exceptional against Barcelona, feels Schubert|
|PSG must be patient, says Emery|
|Celtic are lucky to have Dembele - Rodgers|
|I´m completely focused on Arsenal, insists Wenger amid England talk|