South Africa were denied a dream start to the 2010 World Cup after their opening Group A encounter with Mexico ended 1-1.
The hosts stunned their opponents ten minutes into the second half when Siphiwe Tshabalala lashed the ball past Oscar Perez, but Mexico skipper Rafael Marquez levelled matters with a calm finish after he was left unmarked in the South African box.
Both sides pressed for a winner, and Katlego Mphela came closest for the hosts but his last minute effort bounced back off a post.
For South Africa , the first African nation to host the World Cup finals, pre-tournament expectations were low and in the early stages, Carlos Alberto Parreira’s team resembled nervous gatecrashers at their own party.
Mexico dominated the opening exchanges, with Giovani dos Santos’ bursts from midfield a particular menace. The visitors almost stunned their hosts inside the first two minutes seconds, but Giovani was denied by a last-ditch block by Aaron Mokoena.
There was a lucky escape for South Africa when Khune misjudged at a corner – but he came so far off his line that he played Carlos Vela offside as the Arsenal forward collected a flick-on and tapped in from close range.
Steven Pienaar sent South Africa’s only real early chance – a 25-yard free-kick – tamely over.
Lucas Thwala, who was having a tough time down the left flank, was replaced by Tsepo Masilela at half time as coach Carlos Alberto Parreira looked to bolster his defence. But, against the run of play, they took the the lead through a fine Tshabalala effort after 55 minutes.
The Kaizer Chiefs player was put through by an excellent ball from Teko Modise and fired home a powerful shot that gave Perez no chance.
Boosted by their goal, South Africa playing a counter-attacking game, looked impressive at times when breaking at pace, but often they were let down by a poor final ball. Modise should have doubled their advantage after the hour mark when a deflected Mphela shot fell to him six yards out – but he squirted an effort just wide.
South Africa were made to pay for their profligacy when they left Marquez unmarked at the far post and the Barcelona defender controlled adeptly before calmly steering his shot past Khune.
Katlego Mphela could have snatched victory at the death for the hosts after being put clear by a long clearance from Kuhne, but his shot struck the post as both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.
South Africa 1-1 Mexico
South Africa: Siphiwe Tshabalala 55
Mexico: Rafael Marquez 79
South Africa: 16 Khune, 02 Gaxa, 04 Mokoena. 15 Thwala (Masilela, 45), 20, Khumalo, 08 Tshabalala,m 10 Pienaar (Parker, 83), 11 Modise, 12 Letsholonyane, 13 Dikgacoi, 09 Katlego Mphela.
Mexico: 01 Perez, 02 Rodriguez, 03 Salcido, 04 Marquez, 05 Osorio, 12 Aguilar (Guardado, 56), 16 Juarez, 06 Torrado, 09 Franco (Hernandez, 73), 11 Vela (Blanco, 69), 17 Giovani.
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan).