South Africa and France crash out of World Cup
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France lost their last Group A match to hosts South Africa 2-1 on Tuesday to finish bottom of their group, putting an early end to a miserable World Cup campaign marked by poor results and internal strife.
South Africa beat a sorry French side 2-1 on Tuesday to end France’s agony at the World Cup.
But the Bafana Bafana’s historic first win over a leading football nation proved bittersweet for the 40,000-strong crowd inside Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium as the hosts joined Les Bleus in bowing out of the tournament.
Uruguay qualified first from Group A thanks to their 1-0 defeat of Mexico, which also moves on to the knock-out stage of the competition at the expense of South Africa, thanks to their better goal average.
While the hosts walked off the pitch having restored a measure of pride to their nation, France’s bitterly divided squad head home knowing they can expect no mercy from a furious public.
To reach the second round of the competition, Les Bleus needed to beat the Bafana Bafana by a margin of at least three goals and hope that the other Group B match, between Mexico and Uruguay, did not end in a draw.
At the best of the times, the task ahead of the French would have been daunting; in the current turmoil, it was almost out of the question.
Though the French showed commitment at the start of the game, the dismissal after 25 minutes of player Yoann Gourcuff for an elbow challenge soon left them in desperate straits.
By half-time, the hosts were 2-0 up, thanks to goals by Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela. The latter should have scored another five minutes into the second half, but his shot grazed the side of the post.
The French narrowed the gap after 70 minutes when Franck Ribery set up substitute Florent Malouda for France’s first goal of the tournament. But it was too little, too late.
French farce, on and off the pitch
French hopes appeared dead and buried as early as Thursday, when the team slumped to a dismal 2-0 defeat against Mexico. Since then, France’s campaign has gone from bad to worse.
On Saturday, media reports of a foul-mouthed rant aimed at coach Raymond Domenech during the Mexico game prompted the eviction of star striker Nicolas Anelka. The leak in turn sparked a hunt for a “traitor” within the French camp.
When French players refused to train the next day to protest Anelka’s eviction, the team’s director resigned, politicians were forced to step in and criticism of Les Bleus turned to vitriol.
Such was the chaos surrounding the team that, hours before the South Africa game, it remained uncertain whether France’s hapless coach could even put together a squad that was fit to play.
Bafana Bafana end on a high
South Africa needed a free-scoring win, as well as a favourable result from the other match, to fulfill the Bafana Bafana’s hopes of not being the first host nation to exit a World Cup in the group stage.
Though they failed, the manner of their victory over former champions France meant they could exit the tournament standing proud.