World Cup: South Africa vs. France: Bafana Bafana so proud, Les Bleus so beat
After playing with a lone striker in its first two matches, South Africa Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira opted to put two men up front against France -- Bernard Parker and Katlego Mphela -- and it paid off as South Africa beat France, 2-1.
"I'm so proud for the boys. The way our boys played from the very beginning," Parreira said. "They made this country proud. They proved that they made a good progression."
French soccer has been a mess ever since sports daily L'Equipe printed details of striker Nicolas Anelka's expletive-filled rant at Coach Raymond Domenech during halftime of Thursday's 2-0 loss to Mexico.
The French soccer federation sent Anelka home Saturday, and the French players protested by refusing to practice the following day. Footage of the players refusing to come out of the team bus were beamed back to a shocked nation.
Not even a dressing down by French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot on the eve of the match could inspire Les Bleus. Bachelot called an emergency meeting Monday to tell the players they had let the country down and had one last chance to redeem themselves.
"It's your kids, our children, for whom perhaps you will no longer be heroes," said Bachelot, who told reporters she left the players in tears. "It is the dreams of your partners, your friends, your fans that you have perhaps broken. You have tarnished the image of France."
In the stands, one fan flew a French flag with the word "shame" emblazoned on it.
Mphela gave the France defense fits, with strong runs and dangerous drives from distance. He nearly scored his second goal in the 43rd with a right-footed drive from 25 yards that forced a diving save from Hugo Lloris. Then his right-footed shot hit the crossbar five minutes later.
South Africa's attacking style brought the crowd at Free State Stadium to life, and the home fans roared with each Bafana Bafana foray into the French half.
Facing a 2-0 halftime deficit, Domenech brought on Florent Malouda at the half and striker Thierry Henry 10 minutes later to try to boost his team's flagging attack.
The changes had little effect, until Franck Ribéry collected a through ball deep on the right flank and crossed to Malouda in the middle to finish.
South Africa is the first host nation not to advance to the second round in 80 years of World Cup play.
Although fans were bound to be disappointed, Bafana Bafana entered the tournament ranked 31st among the 32 teams and acquitted itself well. An emotional tie with Mexico to open the tournament gave way to a deflating 3-0 loss to Uruguay, followed by Tuesday's victory over a team ranked ninth in the world.
-- Associated Press
Photo: Siphiwe Tshabalala of South Africa finds his shot blocked by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and French defender Bakari Sagna, right, during the FIFA World Cup 2010 Group A preliminary-round match between France and South Africa at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on June 22, 2010. Credit: Peter Steffen / EPA