South Africa less jaunty, but rather stirring, with a middle eighth change of pace to pluck the heart strings.
The national anthem of Mexico is a wonderfully jaunty number, heartily sung by a sizeable chunk of the crowd, as well as the players. They're all frowning with national pride.
The handshakes are underway now, with captains Aaron Mokoena and Rafael Marquez doing the introductions. Prayers are being offered up in the crowd...
As we wait for the national anthems, Blatter stands nervously at the pitchside, before shedding his slightly fey scarf. "My dear friends," he says, "the World Cup is in Africa." Dramatic pause. "The World Cup is in South Africa!" Huge cheers. "Even if he's not here tonight, the spirit of Mandela is in Soccer City." Vuvuzelas buzz madly. Sepp's pitched this one just right.
As we wait for the national anthems, Sepp Blatter stands nervously at the pitchside, before shedding his slightly fey scarf. "My dear friends," he says, "the World Cup is in Africa." Dramatic pause. "The World Cup is in South Africa!" Huge cheers. "Even if he's not here tonight, the spirit of Mandela is in Soccer City." Vuvuzelas buzz madly. Sepp's pitched this one just right.
I should also add that Mexico has plenty of support in Soccer City. Dave Weibe, my reliable eye in the sky, says his flight from Paris to Johannesburg was packed with Mexican fans. And a couple of people are miffed at absences in my list of young breakout players. "You forgot Chicarito Hernandez", says Regino, from Nayarit in Mexico. "And you could have included Carlos Vela," says Dominic R. "Mexico 3-2 South Africa". I'll take that for a start to the World Cup!
Germany scored within five minutes of the World Cup kick-off in 2006, so I'm limbering up in case the hosts get off to a similar start here. Don't want to end up with a nasty interossei strain now, do I? There are plenty of names in both teams that I don't relish typing repeatedly, so apologies in advance for nicknames such as "Him" and "That one".
It feels like the whole world is at fever pitch as the World Cup kicks off -- all the top trending topics on Twitter (which is now the official zeitgeist-o-meter) relate to the tournament that South Africa and Mexico are about the get underway. South Africa will find some extra fuel in the tank thanks to the vocal support they've been receiving all week -- 200,000 people turned up for an open-top bus parade the other day, and its coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, has said: "We want to make this country proud and we're going to give any team that plays against us hell". He's also said that Mexico is the most daring team at the World Cup, so we and the sell-out crowd could be in for a treat. For the record, however, only two opening games in the last 40 years have featured more than two goals...
South Africa (4-5-1)
Itumeleng Khune; Siboniso Gaxa, Aaron Mokoena, Bongani Khumalo, Lucas Thwala; Teko Modise, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Steven Pienaar, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala; Katlego Mphela.
Oscar Perez; Paul Aguilar, Ricardo Osorio, Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Salcido; Gerardo Torrado, Efrain Juarez, Rafael Marquez, Giovanni dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Guillermo Franco.
The World Cup is finally about to kickoff! The Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg is sold out, so amidst the constant parping of 94,700 vuvuzelas, host South Africa will get things underway against Mexico in the first match of the tournament on Friday at 10 a.m. ET.
South Africa goes into the game unbeaten in 12 matches and hoping to make the most of home advantage. Mexico isn't looking too shabby, mind you, and has won five of its last seven, including a 2-1 win over Italy last week. Both teams will feel capable of making the knockout stages, and want to put pressure on France and Uruguay, who play Group A's second game later Friday.
I'll be bringing you the game live from 9.45 a.m. ET, so if you're stuck at work, open up a cheeky second browser window and keep up with the action. And you can email your pregame thoughts and observations during the game to me at firstname.lastname@example.org while you're at it.