It was a double blow for France – 1998 champions and 2006 runners-up – as they lost 2-1 to hosts South Africa and also crashed out of the World Cup while Uruguay and Mexico reached the last 16. South Africa, who were also eliminated, became the first hosting nation to be knocked out before the start of the second round.
Uruguay finished top after defeating Mexico 1-0 in Rustenburg, but Mexico took the second spot in the group after South Africa’s 2-1 win over France in Bloemfontein proved not enough for either side to advance.
France exited the World Cup after a disastrous tournament scarred by the exclusion of star striker Nicolas Anelka and the players’ refusal to take part in a training session in protest.
South Africa took the lead with a 20th minute header from Bongani Khumalo as France’s day went from bad to worse when Yoann Gourcuff was sent off after half an hour. He jumped for a header and referee Oscar Ruiz adjudged he had elbowed South Africa’s MacBeth Sibaya in the face.
Domenech buried his head in his hands as Gourcuff left the field. Katlego Mphela then put the host nation 2-0 ahead when he bundled the ball into the net after the French defence failed to clear.
But France pulled a goal back through substitute Florent Malouda as they scored their first strike of the entire tournament.
Embattled France coach Raymond Domenech though said he was heartened by his team’s performance.
“They showed real heart, real fight, real generosity of spirit out there, it’s what I was looking for,” said the 58-year-old, who declined to explain why he refused to shake the hand of his opposite number Carlos Alberto Parreira at the final whistle.
Uruguay and Mexico through to last 16
In Rustenburg, Uruguay scored the winner just before half-time with a Luis Suarez header from an Edinson Cavani cross to the back post. Mexico had chances to equalise, with Andres Guardado rattling the crossbar, but the result was rendered academic as both countries qualified
“The important thing was to win and finish top of the group,” said Uruguay striker Diego Forlan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2010.
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