'A blessing from God'

Guille Franco has labelled the opportunity to play in the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup "a blessing from God".

The 33-year-old, who will leave the Boleyn Ground when his contract expires at the end of June, is expected to start for Mexico when El Tri kick-off the tournament against hosts South Africa on Friday afternoon.

Franco is relishing the opportunity to showcase his talents on the biggest of stages, with hundreds of millions of fans expected to tune in to the Group A opener at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

"It is a blessing from God, as not everyone has the chance to usher in a World Cup. We are aware of the millions who will witness the game, as it is the first game.

"The big names and personalities are going to be there, like Nelson Mandela, people who have made history and contributed much to society. For us, it is a blessing from God being chosen to inaugurate the World Cup."

Mexico and South Africa will be desperate to emerge from a group that also includes France and Uruguay, who meet in Cape Town on Friday evening, for different reasons.

The hosts want to avoid becoming the first host nation to fail to reach the second round, while Mexico are bidding to go past that stage for the first time in 14 attempts.

Franco, who has scored seven goals in 21 games for Mexico, has urged his team-mates not to be distracted by the lavish opening ceremony that will precede the match, nor by a 90,000-strong home crowd armed with deafening 'Vuvuzela' horns.

"It is normal that there is an expectation on South Africa as the hosts - the whole party is organised by the Bafana Bafana. It is normal that the country is happy as this great event is being held here.

"We will stand by and focused on what we have do on Friday, which means not being distracted by the party, but remaining focused on our job."

Mexico's Group A opener against South Africa will be screened live by ITV, with kick-off at 3pm UK time.

El Tri complete their group-stage fixtures by facing France in Polokwane on Thursday 17 June and Uruguay in Rustenburg on Tuesday 22 June.