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."
|A-League Review: Sydney end Wellington run, Adelaide suffer injury blows in Jets win|
|Henderson eyes long-term Liverpool future|
|I have nothing to prove - Bale|
|South Korea v New Zealand: All Whites looking to future|
|Japan v Uzbekistan: Hosts eye another win under Halilhodzic|
|MLS Review: Kaka nets in Orlando draw|
|Mexico 1 Ecuador 0: Hernandez, Corona help Herrera´s men to victory|
|Deschamps calls for France response|
|Dunga unfazed by pressure|
|Montenegro fan turns himself in after flare incident|
|Injured Messi not ready - Martino|
|Hodgson: Rooney not close to Charlton|
|Terim proud of Turkey|
|Hiddink happy with point|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Netherlands and Italy stage late escapes|
|Debutant Eder delighted with Azzurri bow|
|Argentina 2 El Salvador 0: Mancuello nets debut goal in straightforward win|
|Kovac not satisfied despite Croatia victory|
|Netherlands 1 Turkey 1: Huntelaar spares Hiddink from historic home loss|
|Ghana 1 Senegal 2: Konate brace downs Black Stars|
|Bulgaria 2 Italy 2: Controversial debutant Eder rescues Conte´s men|
|Morocco 0 Uruguay 1: Cavani spot-kick seals win|
|Al Sadd say talks with Xavi ongoing|
|McClean slams Sunderland´s handling of poppy controversy|
|Ghana 1-2 Senegal: Black Stars continue Afcon hangover|
|Cheltenham player diagnosed with cancer|
|Palace takeover talk premature - Parish|
|Odegaard becomes Euro qualifiers´ youngest starter|
|Job not done yet, Bale warns Wales|
|Israel 0 Wales 3: Brilliant Bale bags brace as Wales go top|
|Dunga backs Neymar to overhaul Pele´s Brazil goal record|
|League Two Review: Hartlepool climb out of drop zone, Cheltenham go bottom|
|El Salvador 0-2 Argentina: Martino's men triumph without Messi|
|League One Review: Canavan leaves it late to deny County|
|Freddy Adu signs with 11th team in as many years|
|Besiktas deny Cech, Danny rumours|
|Puerto Rico v Canada: Haber targets more momentum|
|Miranda not contemplating Atletico exit|
|Austin relaxed over England prospects|
|Manchester United should sign Ibrahimovic - Schmeichel|
|Ibe eyes Liverpool run-in|
|Bertrand called up by England as withdrawal of four players confirmed|
|A-League Review: Risdon nets stunner, Germano tames Roar|
|Panama v Costa Rica: Unbeaten run a secondary concern for Wanchope|
|Italy coach Conte shaken after death threats - FIGC chief|
|Barca fears over Alba eased|
|Schweinsteiger to start Germany qualifier|
|Akinfeev thanks fans after flare incident|
|Injuries offer Kane chance of first England start|
|Russian Football Union to protest following Montenegro abandonment|
|October comeback the target for injured Foster|
|Van der Vaart looks set to leave Hamburg|
|Bale focused on Wales - Coleman|
|Kluivert helps Curacao to victory|
|Hamstrung Alba returns to Barcelona|
|Macedonia v Australia: Confident visitors eye victory|
|Akinfeev to return to Moscow with Russia squad|
|Brnovic: Montenegro have no chance of qualifying|
|Russia had to resume after Akinfeev incident - Capello|
|Terim: Robben absence important|
|Brazil - Chile Preview: Winning is 'our only option' - Dunga|
|France - Denmark Preview: Olsen hits out at 'disrespectful' hosts|
|Morata keen to keep working|
|Canada 1 Guatemala 0: Haber heads Floro´s men to win|
|Difficult to find a place for Kane in starting XI - Hodgson|
|Difficult to find a place for Kane in starting XI - Hodgson|
|Montenegro-Russia abandoned after scuffle|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Montenegro-Russia abandoned, Spain and England win|
|Accrington Stanley 0 Newport County 2: Visitors up to sixth|
|Kane delighted with ´dream´ start|
|England 4 Lithuania 0: Kane enjoys dream debut|
|Spain 1 Ukraine 0: Morata settles tight contest|
|Akinfeev struck by flare as Montenegro-Russia game suspended after 30 seconds|
|Brazil v Chile: Winning is ´our only option´ - Dunga|
|Northern Ireland v Finland: Controversial fixture met with religious protests|
|Scotland v Gibraltar: Wilson out to dent countrymen´s hopes|
|Republic of Ireland v Poland: Pressure is on, says O´Neill|
|Georgia v Germany: Schneider warns world champions|
|PSV agree permament Guardado deal|
|France v Denmark: Olsen hits out at training facilities|
|Pienaar to return to Everton training|
|Hughes eyes silverware at Stoke after signing new deal|
|Portugal v Serbia: Carvalho vows to attack|
|Dynamo Kiev stadium partially closed after racism probe|
|Hull City fined £30,000 for misconduct|
|Balotelli must work hard for Italy return – Bonucci|
|Marchisio suffers knee ligament injury|
|Hughes agrees new Stoke City deal until 2018|
|Martinez hopeful over injured Everton trio|
|South Korea 1-1 Uzbekistan: Kuziboyev's debut strike denies hosts|
|South Korea 1 Uzbekistan 1: Kuziboyev´s debut strike denies hosts|
|Japan 2 Tunisia 0: Kagawa and Honda shine as Halilhodzic starts with a win|
|South Africa v Nigeria: Mashaba wary of bitter opponents|
|Japan 2-0 Tunisia: Kagawa & Honda shine in Halilhodzic's first game|
|Parma captain Lucarelli welcomes FIGC reforms|
|South Africa - Nigeria Preview: Mashaba wary of bitter opponents|
|Di Francesco ignoring Milan rumours|
|Melbourne Victory 2 Central Coast Mariners 1: Finkler leads fightback|
|Bale would be ´perfect´ for United - Scholes|
|Badstuber and Bellarabi out of Georgia clash|
|Rooney KOs boxing celebration|
|Allen thrilled with Welsh ´hunger´|
|Kovacic to miss Euro 2016 qualifier|
|Costa Rica 0 Paraguay 0: Dour draw marks Diaz debut|
|Reid ruled out of South Korea friendly|
|Deschamps talks up France despite defeat|
|Rooney chasing England goalscoring record|
|Brazil ´superior´ admit French veterans|
|Reeves sidelined for Finland clash|
|Confidence critical for rampaging Brazil - Dunga|