BLOEMFONTEIN (Reuters) – South Africa overcame a dispirited France team, who were reduced to 10 men for more than an hour, to win 2-1 in their last World Cup Group A match yesterday but it was not enough to reach the second round.
Uruguay, who beat Mexico 1-0, finished top of the group with seven points for a place in the last 16 with the Mexicans who edged out South Africa on goal difference. The hosts were third on four points with hapless France finishing last on one.
South Africa became the first World Cup hosts to fail to survive the group stage but at least restored some pride.
The hosts, seeking to put on a good display in front of 39,415 spectators at the Free State Stadium, also recorded their first triumph over a major footballing power with first-half goals from Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela.
However, they had the advantage of playing against 10 men for all but the first 25 minutes of the match after the controversial dismissal of Yoann Gourcuff.
The French playmaker, restored to the starting lineup and looking early on to conduct his team’s attempted revival, was adjudged to have elbowed MacBeth Sibaya in a goalmouth heading duel but it looked unintentional.
The surprise red card came five minutes after a goalkeeping error allowed Khumalo to head home from a corner and with the man advantage saw the hosts stamp their authority on the game.
France keeper Hugo Lloris misjudged the height of the ball sailing over his head, allowing Khumalo to lean in over Abou Diaby to score.
The French defence was also caught out when Mphela scored the second goal in the 37th minute, bundling the ball over the line after a square pass from Tsepo Masilela.
Mphela could have netted again five minutes into the second half when he ran onto a clever through pass from Siphiwe Tshabalala but his shot grazed the side of the post.
France, who brought on forward Thierry Henry, showed effort in patches and pulled a goal back after 70 minutes when Franck Ribery suddenly sparked into life with a clever run that set up an easy tap-in for substitute Florent Malouda.
France’s players had refused to train on Sunday in protest at the sending home of striker Nicolas Anelka for swearing at coach Domenech. Captain Patrice Evra was not included in the team for Tuesday’s match against South Africa.
Uruguay secured a place in the second round of the World Cup finals for the first time since 1990 when they beat Latin American rivals Mexico 1-0 yesterday.
The result meant Uruguay topped Group A and Mexico also went through on goal difference over hosts South Africa.
A well-made and perfectly-taken headed goal by striker Luis Suarez after 43 minutes settled the outcome of their final group clash as Mexico lost their way after an evenly-balanced first half.
In a tightly contested, but open game, with no sign of any intention to play for a draw, Uruguay, champions in 1930 and 1950, had to resist Mexican pressure in the closing stages to keep a third straight clean sheet.
The first half was littered with stoppages, tension seeming to grip both teams.
As the sun went down, Mexico, playing the more intricate football, had the best early chance when Andres Guardado fired in a wicked left-foot drive from 30 metres that rebounded off the bar.
But Uruguay were in no mood to be dazzled or unnerved and, combining strength with pace in attack, they gave as good as they received in an evenly-balanced and, at times, fascinating contest. Reuters