South Africa/Mexico Redux: Offsides Rule, South Africa Counter, Marquez Beats Trap

11 June 2010

Siphiwe Tshabalala scores South Africa's first goal. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
The 2010 FIFA World Cup opened in dramatic fashion at Soccer City Stadium as Tshabalala's opener was canceled out by Rafa Marquez 11 minutes from full time in a 1-1 draw that South Africa nearly pipped late when Mphela's shot off a Khune punt forward went agonizingly off the post.

That said, let's take a look at the three big moments of the match.
1) Mexico's disallowed goal in the first half was a great reminder to everyone of the offside rule.
After a very nervy start from the host nation, South Africa finally started to get their feet under them. Despite that, however, Mexico controlled most of the first half. After an early opportunity, Mexico's best legal chance came in the 32nd when Khune denied a Franco effort from point blank range. Mexico's will feel, though, that their effort off a corner in the 37th should have stood.
In fairness to Mexico, it was a well placed corner kick, right on the edge of the six yard box. Khune, though, played it perfectly. Knowing he wasn't going to get to it, and with a wall of Bafana Bafana players blocking a direct header to goal, Khune got himself as far forward as humanly possible. When Franco headed the ball forward to Carlos Vela, the damage was done. With Khune further forward than Vela, the linesman correctly threw the flag up for offside.
While the decision may have been tight, it was still correct nonetheless. The rule states two defenders must be behind the ball at the time the ball is played forward. The keeper just gets ahead of the defender, only leaving the man on the line as the solo defender behind the ball. The only way the goal would have stood is if Vela had headed the ball into the net directly off the corner kick.
While most of Twitter, and ESPN's broadcast, got that decision completely wrong, what they did was give us all a reminder to occasionally brush up on the laws of the game. Mexico should have already been at least 1-0, if not 2-0 ahead by that point. It wasn't the referee's fault they correctly denied them the opportunity.

2) Six touches to paradise for Siphiwe Tshabalala on the counter attack.
After a nervy start from Mexico in the second half, they were made to pay the price in the 54th. After giving up the ball on the edge of their attacking third, South Africa simply made them pay. Mphela plays a 1-2 in the midfield before sending a sublime diagonal ball in Tshabalala's direction. Ricardo Osorio was unable to get back fast enough, and was only a spectator to the final product.
This goal was made in the center circle. The one-two pass there by Mphela was what sprung Tshabala forward, and the two defenders on the left side to attempt and close down the sequence. When they failed, it was just a matter of getting the ball forward before Tshabalala ended up offside. It was simply inch perfect. As for the Mexican keeper, he didn't get out quick enough to cut off the angles and the final product showed that.
When you're on the counter attack, the name of the game is getting the ball forward in as few touches as possible. From start to finish, it only took six. The only man to touch it more than twice in succession was the goal scorer. That is the way you draw it up on the chalkboard.

3) The South African captain completely let his keeper down late.
My editor Jeff and I recently (I think it was the day of the FA Cup Final, but not entirely sure) were shocked at how many people still think the short corner is an effective weapon. When the short corner looked like it wasn't going to make it to the box in the 78th, I was just about to tweet 'another short corner fails again'. How wrong I was here.
Credit has to be given to Guardado for not giving up on the play. After tracking the ball down, he spotted the error in the South African defense and instinctively threw the ball back into the mix. With Aaron Mokoena blowing the offside trap, it was just a matter of who scored the goal for Mexico. With the ball going to the far post, Rafa Marquez was the one who was able to reap the rewards of one man's mistake. While Khune did his best to cut off the obvious far post angle, he left just enough of the near post exposed for the experienced Marquez to equalize.
Mokoena ought to apologize not only to Khune, but to every Bafana Bafana player on the park when that happened. Had he followed his line forward, I am convinced Marquez would have ended up offside on the cross and South Africa could have finished off a spectacular victory. While Mphela put the ball off the post late, he shouldn't have been in the position to have to win it.

At this time, I would like to offer my heart felt condolences to the Mandela family for the tragic loss of Nelson Mandela's 13 year old great-granddaughter Zenani.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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