South Africa, France crash out


South Africa became the first host country in the FIFA World Cup history to crash out in the opening round despite a 2-1 victory over France, who also ended their miserable campaign with 10 men after Yoann Gourcuff was sent off in a Group A match in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

The valiant effort by the Bafana Bafana, who scored through Bongani Khumalo (20th) and Katlego Mphela (37th) ultimately was not enough as Uruguay and Mexico sailed into the round of 16 from Group A after the former's 1-0 victory in Rustenburg.

South Africa ended the group stage on four points, same as Mexico, but the Latin Americans made it to the round of 16 as second-placed team on better goal difference while Uruguay topped the pool with seven points.

South Africa have a goal difference of minus two as against plus one of Mexico.

Image: A fan carries a placard bidding farewell to the French and South African teams
Photographs: Reuters

The 1998 champions France, embroiled in a protest by the leading players after the sending back of striker Nicolas Anelka following his bust up with coach Raymond Domenech, emulated their 2006 feat by crashing out in the first round but improved a bit by scoring one more goal to the none four years ago.

Domenech dropped as many as six players, including captain Patrice Evra who led the players' strike, from the starting XI that lost 0-2 against Mexico but that did not result in an improved show from the Europeans.  

France had the better ball possession in the initial stages of the match but their hopes of making it to the round of 16 evaporated after Bongani Khumalo outjumped Abou Diaby to connect a Siphiwe Tshabalala corner kick into the net.

Image: South Africa's Bongani Khumalo (C) celebrates his goal during the 2010 World Cup Group A soccer match against France at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein

The Les Bleus were unlucky to have reduced to 10 men by the 26th minute as TV replays clearly showed that Gourcuff elbow contact with the head of Macbeth Sibaya was apparently not intentional and harmless though the Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz thought otherwise.

The game was as good as over for France thereafter.

Thierry Henry, who came in for Djibril Cisse in the 55th minute, wore the captain's arm band but could not do much in the match. 

Image: Referee Ruiz gestures after showing the red card to France's Gourcuff for a foul on South Africa's Sibaya