Franco eager to get party started

JOHANNESBURG - Mexican striker Guillermo Franco is itching to run on the pitch for the opening match of the World Cup on Friday against hosts South Africa.

"It's a blessing from God, not everyone has the opportunity to kick off the World Cup and we're aware that millions of people will be watching," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Among those watching the Group A game pitchside at Soccer City could be 91-year-old Nelson Mandela though the former South African president has made very few public appearances in recent months.

South African president Jacob Zuma and Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon are expected to attend.

"People who have made history such as Mandela will be there, people who have brought so much to society and to humanity," the Argentine-born naturalised Mexican said.

Franco added he was impressed by the effort made to hype up the June 11-July 11 tournament, where Mexico will also face France and Uruguay in the group stages.

"The whole world and all of Mexico is throwing itself into this event and for us this is so important. We know what a big deal it is to represent our country," he added.

Franco is among a number of players not assured a starting place in Javier Aguirre's team but with seven goals in 21 appearances he could feature.

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