Throughout the World Cup, we will be taking a look at former Palace players and the best moments in their respective national shirts. With the tournament kicking off in Russia today, we look back at the opening game from the 2010 edition, and a day that Kagisho Dikgacoi will never forget.
It was one of the abiding moments of the first ever World Cup held in Africa – South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala rifling the ball into the top corner of the Mexico net to kick off the competition in style and show that the hosts were capable of producing the goods on and off the field.
However, that abiding memory was only made possible thanks to an inch-perfect through ball by Dikgacoi, who was then at Fulham before moving to Palace the following year. The pass, shot and subsequent choreographed dance celebration would be replayed throughout the tournament, and still raises a smile today with the BBC recently including it in its top 50 World Cup moments.
“I made an interception on the midfield and played a one-two,” Dikgacoi recalled to FourFourTwo in 2014, “and then I gave the pass to Tshabalala. After he finished the goal everyone went crazy.
“I think [the celebration] was planned by Tshabalala. They did it in one of the friendly games before the World Cup, so I had learned it from there. It was a good finish from him and everyone went mad.”
Rafael Marquez would spoil the party and grab an equaliser 12 minutes from time, but for the man known in south London as KG, it was still a very special day.
“The atmosphere was incredible,” remembers Dikgacoi. “Aside from the fact it was played in South Africa, it was my first World Cup and it felt great.
“Getting to the game, it was emotional. The crowd, everyone was behind the squad, it was so exciting to be part of a team in the World Cup.”
However, having been booked in the opening game and then the subsequent 3-0 defeat to an emerging Uruguay team, Dikgacoi would miss their final group game which brought Bafana Bafana’s only win on home soil when they shocked France 2-1.
However they became the first host nation not to make it past the first round on goal difference, and Dikgacoi – who played 102 times for Palace before moving onto Cardiff City in 2014 – is still gutted not to have been able to affect proceedings.
“It was heartbreaking, especially as I was there at the game watching from the stands,” admits Dikgacoi. “I wished I could have been playing on that pitch, but when I looked around the stadium I could see the fans were excited to beat France.
“We drew, we lost and then we won – it wasn't a bad achievement in a World Cup, considering we had loads of players who didn’t have experience of international football.”