So, this is what bittersweet tastes like...
This sentiment reverberated through Twitter as South Africa fell out of the World Cup tournament, despite winning their last group game against France. It was a resilient performance by Bafana Bafana, who defied almost every prediction to go one up against France in the 20th minute with a powerful header by Bongani Khumalo, who overpowered a French defender to reach the cross. It was an exciting first half to watch, with Bafana probing and prodding the French defence for the slightest gap to whip a shot in at Hugo Lloris.
Bafana Bafana were helped a little by a contentious decision from the Colombian referee. It came in the 27th minute, when Yoan Gourcuff slammed an elbow into Macbeth Sibaya’s jaw. The big South African midfielder, accustomed to the rough and tumble of the Russian football league, went down like a sack of rocks and had to be stretchered off for medical help. There was no doubt that there had been considerable contact, but did Gourcuff mean to jab his elbow out like that? He was contesting an air ball with Sibaya, after all. There was no doubt in the referee’s mind, who handed out a straight red card. The game suddenly changed for South Africa.
The Boys played with heart and soul, and were rewarded for their efforts again in the first half when Katlego Mphela found the back of the net. And just like that, the memories of that horrific loss to Uruguay were wiped away. Suddenly, we were only a whisper away from making it into the second round. Suddenly, Phillip was back (if you have to ask who Phillip is, don’t even bother).
But we should not forget how South Africa made it into the World Cup in the first place – by spending billions and billions of rands on stadia, hotel rooms and fast trains. We didn’t exactly play our way in. And despite the change-room scandals, the “eccentric” coach and the over-inflated egos, France still are one of the best football sides in the world. The introduction of Florent Malouda and Thierry Henry in the second half completely changed the face of the game with South Africa finding themselves on the back foot. As much as they had pluck, Bafana were a little short of ideas and eventually conceded a goal to the French. Frank Ribery and Malouda beat our defenders to put one past Moeneeb Josephs, and just like that, our party was over.
Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Mexico meant that although Bafana were equal to Mexico in points, the Mexicans have a greater goal difference and will go on to meet the winner of Group B in the last 16.
But there is so much that our squad can take from Tuesday afternoon’s performance. We’ve proven to be a well-organised side that is capable of toppling even the great football powers. Almost every single player can look forward to a glittering future in football. Next stop, the Africa Cup of Nations.
South Africa may be out of the tournament, but the World Cup is still in our back yard. The party is not over.
France: Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Sebastien Squillaci, Gael Clichy; Alou Diarra, Abou Diaby, Yoan Gourcuff, Franck Ribery; Andre-Pierre Gignac, Djibril Cisse.
South Africa: Moeneeb Josephs; Anele Ngcongoa, Bongani Khumalo, Aaron Mokoena, Tsepo Masilela, MacBeth Sibaya, Thanduyise Khuboni, Steven Pienaar, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Katlego Mphela, Bernard Parker.
Man of the match
Sibaya has made 59 appearances for South Africa, but has never scored for his country.
Was there or was there not intention in Gourcuff’s challenge? Another contentious red card in the 2010 World Cup. We’ll take what we can get.
Photo: South Africa’s Katlego Mphela scores their second goal against France during their 2010 World Cup Group A soccer match at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
South Africa suddenly believe again. There is boldness and confidence in their play. Just what we needed after that crushing defeat to Uruguay last week.
End of the first half.
Raymond Domenech has made a substitution during half time. Andre Pierre Gignac comes off for Florent Malouda.
France are looking to get back in this game. They are currently parked in South Africa’s third half.
The French are doing all the pushing and probing in this half. This will be the real test of South Africa’s mettle.
Photo: Seventy five year-old Zame Raymond (C) and her extended family cheer while watching South Africa play France in the 2010 World Cup in their driveway in the Eersterust neighborhood of Pretoria June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
End of the match. End of a dream.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Photo: South Africa’s Bongani Khumalo (L) celebrates his goal during the 2010 World Cup Group A soccer match against France at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Despite receiving a knighthood from the Queen, Bill Gates cannot use the title "Sir" due to his being American.