JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AFP) - Arsenal forward Carlos Vela insisted his Mexico side are still potential knock-out phase contenders, despite being held to a 1-1 draw by South Africa in Friday's World Cup opener.
"The first game is important to start strong in the tournament, but I still think this team is a very good team although we can't win every game now," said the 21-year-old winger.
The Mexicans were left bitterly disappointed after failing to convert their first-half domination into goals as South Africa grew in confidence in front of 84,490 supporters at a packed Soccer City stadium in the Group A clash.
The hosts took the lead when midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala drilled home a shot after a superb pass from playmaker Steven Pienaar on 55 minutes.
Only a 79th-minute equaliser by Mexico's Rafael Marquez denied the Bafana Bafana the dream start to their World Cup campaign, but South Africa nearly poached a win in added time when striker Katlego Mphela hit the post.
"We were exhausted at the end because we had to chase really hard to get the equaliser," said Mexican defender Ricardo Osorio.
"That left us open to counter-attacks and we nearly conceded again.
"It's not the result we were expecting but there are still two games left and our hopes are still intact."
His colleague in defence, Carlos Salcido, admitted the Mexicans allowed the South Africans to recover their composure after the hosts' nervous start.
"It was a fair result and the two halves were very different," he said.
"We were the better side in the first and created chances, but in the second they were more organised and made life hard for us.
"The World Cup has only just begun and there's still everything to play for."
Hector Moreno, an unused substitute, said his side should be happy to have taken a point from their first game.
"At the end it's one point gained because we could get the three but we lost the chances in the first half and then look what happened," he said.
"But I think the team is doing well and with two games left I think we're going to win both."
He insisted his side was not intimidated by the atmosphere. "It was a party for the people in South Africa, for all the continent."
Mexico face 1998 winners France in their next match on Thursday, while South Africa take on Uruguay on Wednesday.
|Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira|
for L. Thwala 46'
for S. Pienaar 83'
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