South Africa ended France’s dismal 2010 World Cup on Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over the disjointed and disgraced Les Bleus.
Neither team will advance to the second round, but South Africa ended on a high note in front of a loud and fervent crowd at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
Bongani Khumalo scored in the 20th minute to give South Africa the lead. On the corner by Siphiwe Tshabalala, French keeper Hugo Lloris missed the ball on his attempt to bat it away, and Khumalo rose above the defender to perfectly head it in the net.
It would go from bad to worse for France as just five minutes after surrendering the first goal, Yoann Gourcuff picked up a red card for elbowing Macbeth Sibaya on the side of the head while leaping for the ball.
With the man advantage, Bafana Bafana continued to charge. They upped their lead to 2-0 after the French defenders bungled the ball leaving Katlego Mphela open to easily carry the ball through the goal in the 37th minute.
France finally scored in the 70th minute when Franck Ribery sent the short pass into the path of Florent Malouda after the South African keeper came out to stop Ribery. Malouda put the ball into the empty net to score France’s one and only goal in the entire 2010 World Cup.
Despite finishing with four points, tied for second in Group A with Mexico, South Africa will not move on due to goal differential. It becomes the first host nation not to make it out of the group stage.
While positives still abound for the South Africans, things do not look very bright for France.
Its troubles at the tournament began during halftime of France’s 2-0 loss to Mexico on June 17. With his team clearly struggling, French striker Nicolas Anelka argued with coach Raymond Domenech. He was subsequently sent home by the French Football Association.
In support of their expelled teammate, the French players refused to practice on Sunday. Domenech responded by removing the ringleader, captain Patrice Evra, from Tuesday’s lineup.
Tuesday’s loss was Domenech’s final game as head of Les Bleus, as he will now be replaced. He had already planned to leave the post following the tournament.
Controversy had already surrounded the French team even before the tournament started. It started during qualification, when France only made it to the World Cup by defeating Ireland in a play-off. The win was secured in a questionable manner, off a Thierry Henry handball.
After such a poor showing in South Africa, the 2006 finalists will now have plenty of time to examine and fix the state of their national team.