South Africa bowed out of their World Cup by beating an embarrassing French side 2-1, meaning Uruguay and Mexico qualified from Group A.
Two goals in the first half by Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela were enough to give the hosts all three points, but they still needed three more goals to topple Mexico and into second place.
The French – with all their problems throughout the week – never looked like a side with any belief or fight, and their cause wasn’t helped when Yoann Gourcuff was sent off harshly for an alleged elbow.
Still, they deserved to finish bottom from a relatively comfortable group, even with Florent Malouda’s late consolation goal.
The French, surprisingly, started positively, and Gourcuff slid through Andre-Pierre Gignac after only two minutes. However, it was a poor finish by the Toulouse forward, and he tamely placed the ball into Moeneeb Joesphs’ arms.
Gignac should have done better, but France, at least, started the game with good pace and looked far more determined than they did on their previous two matches.
South Africa, on the other hand, offered very little in the opening stages and were just caught chasing French shadows in the middle of the park. They did, however, look fairly comfortable in defence, but this was more to do with the lack of pressure placed upon them than a marked improvement in organisation.
But it was they who took the lead after 20 minutes against the run of play. A dangerous corner from Siphiwe Tshabalala caught Hugo Lloris in no mans land, and Khumalo towered above anyone in blue to head the ball into the empty net.
It was a big mistake from the French goalkeeper, and gave South Africa some hope that they could progress.
Lloris then remarkably did the same thing only minutes later. However, this time there was no one in yellow available to get on the end of the set-piece. Moments later, Mphela’s great run allowed him to shoot from around 20 yards, but his shot just finished wide of the right hand post.
Then, just as things couldn’t get any worse for Les Blues, Gourcuff was sent off for an almost nothing offence. The Bordeaux playmaker attacked the ball when it was high the air, but a trailing elbow connected with MacBeth Sibaya, and the referee deemed this guilty enough to show a straight red card.
It was a ridiculous decision by Oscar Ruiz, as Gourcuff clearly only had eyes for the ball and used his elbow for leverage. However, it was the last thing Raymond Domenech’s team needed; with their World Cup dream already appearing to be well and truly over.
With the early French pressure seemingly a distant memory now, South Africa started to use their extra man well, and Mphela made it two-nil after 37 minutes.
After a bit of ping ball in French penalty area, the ball bobbled to Tsepo Masilela, whose cross wasn’t dealt with correctly, and Mphela was on hand to bundle the ball home.
The French almost got one back after 40 minutes. Frank Ribery’s cross evaded everyone bar the goalkeeper, who brilliantly tipped the ball over the bar.
Despite this speculative effort, however, it was South Africa who were in the ascendancy. They were spreading the ball about well, and the French looked disheartened.
Mphela almost got his second of the match just before half time, but Lloris, at full stretch, managed to divert the ball for a corner.
A two goal deficit at half time flattered the French, and they had no idea where they were going. South Africa, though, at this stage had belief they could perform a miracle and qualify for the last 16.
Domenech took off the anonymous Gignac at half time in favour for Florent Malouda, in what was a desperate attempt to salvage something from a disastrous World Cup.
South Africa started the second period reasonably well, and Bernard Parker spun the French defence, but his long range effort was never going to trouble Lloris.
And it should have been three after 50 minutes. Tshabalala’s through ball set-up Mphela clear on in goal, but his first time shot hit the woodwork and out of play.
It was a good move from the hosts, but it was obvious to everyone watching that the French were in complete disarray.
Thierry Henry – largely ignored by Domenech in this competition – was brought on for Djibril Cisse, but it was hard to see what kind of difference this would have made. Instead, it would have been far better to have started with the Barcelona forward.
Mphela’s 25 yard drive then tested Lloris fully, but the Lyon goalkeeper was not prepared to make another mistake which put his side into so much trouble early on.
The disappointing Ribery was presented with a rare opportunity for the 1998 winners, but his effort was meek, and he would have been better playing in Henry who had made a good run into the box.
Mphela’s pace and power gave himself another chance after the hour mark, but – coupled with the tight angle and Lloris’ excellence – he was unable to squeeze the ball into the net.
Mphela, though, was excellent throughout the match and should have scored more than he did.
But it was France who got the third of the match and, indeed, their first of the tournament.
Ribery was played through, and he unselfishly played in Malouda who tapped the ball home into the empty net.
It was a case of too little too late for France, but it killed off any hopes the hosts had of progression.
The goal appeared to knock South Africa, and they struggled to play with the same purpose they had done previously.
They did, however, continue to press, but both sides were forced to bow out of the 2010 World Cup.
France: Lloris, Sagna, Gallas, Squillaci, Clichy, Gourcuff, Diarra (Govou, 82), Diaby, Ribery, Cisse (Henry, 55), Gignac (Malouda, 46).
South Africa: Josephs, Masilela, Mokoena, Ngcongca (Gaxa, 55), Khumalo, Sibaya, Tshabalala, Pienaar, Khuboni (Modise, 78), Mphela, Parker (Nomvethe, 68).