After all, as the runners-up in the last World Cup, France had already been held to a scoreless draw vs. Uruguay, upset by Mexico, and embarrassed in front of the world by a nasty feud that involved the expulsion of one player, the resignation of a manager, and a player strike.
Surely they’d have gotten the bickering out of their system and come ready to crush a less experience South African team and, perhaps, squeak by Mexico to get into the second round.
Oh how wrong we were.
Bafana Bafana – as South Africa's team is known – came to play and they taught the French just how much worse their World Cup could get.
Bongani Khumalo kicked off the bad news for France by soaring over a French defender for a brilliant header off a corner kick in the 20th minute.
The red card left France a man down for the rest of the match.
“France arrived under a cloud, but it’s become a full-blown thunderstorm now,” said an ESPN announcer.
And it just kept pouring.
Katlego “Killer” Mphela lived up to his nickname by scoring South Africa’s second goal in the 37th minute, snuffing the life out of France’s World Cup bid.
One has to wonder what went on in the locker room at halftime. Insults? Screaming? Finger-pointing? Or just long faces?
It couldn’t have been a pretty sight.
But France did stop the bleeding by holding South Africa scoreless in the second half. They even salvaged a scrap of dignity by scoring their only goal of the tournament in the 70th minute.
The goal was nothing special. Florent Malouda passed it calmly into an empty net. But the leadup to the goal was a clinic in the very thing that has eluded France all tournament: teamwork.
Sagna then found Franck Ribery streaking up the right wing and played a nice ball through to him. Rather than trying anything fancy, Ribery drew the keeper out to him and slotted it through to a waiting Malouda.
That’s the kind of soccer that could have seen France qualifying at the top of its group, but it was too little, too late to save Les Bleus from crashing out at the bottom of Group A with the one point it earned from its scoreless draw with Uruguay.
Unfortunately for South Africa, that goal ended their hopes of qualifying, because – although they won today’s match – they needed to make up a deficit on goal differential to advance over Mexico.
Still, the Rainbow Nation can be proud of the their boys, their Bafana Bafana.
They performed admirably on home soil, ending on a high note by beating one of the most talented (if discombobulated) teams in the world.
South Africans can hold their heads high tonight.
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