Tuesday, 22 June 2010

South Africa beat France 2-1, Uruguay win 1-0 to top Group A... and Mexico slip through on goal difference

THIS is your minute-by-minute report from the second half as Group A came to a climax. At half-time it was all to play for as South Africa led 2-0 against France and Uruguay were 1-0 up against Mexico. All we needed was a two-goal swing...

It didn't happen but Carlos Alberto Parreira said: "It happens, it happens. I'm so proud for the boys. Look at France, the quality of the players they have.

"We were better. We won the game. If Mphela had scored his chance it would have been 3-0... but I am so proud of my boys."

Blow by blow: Suddenly it was all up in the air as Group A reaches an hysterical climax. Uruguay have scored against Mexico, South Africa 2-0 up against France. Halftime in Bloemfontein and Phokeng.

The phones are buzzing, I've just been on on to 702, the big Johannesburg radio station and they're going bonkers.

Situation is this: South Africa need to score two more goals and Uruguay have to maintain that lead for the hosts to get through.

Bongani Khumalo, who has been brilliant next to captain Aaron Mokoena at the heart of the Bafana Bafana defence, scored with a superb header after 21 minutes to start the pulses racing. Siphiwe Tshabalala's corner deserves a mention. Spot on, and there haven't been many of those in this tournament with the Jabulani ball.

Five minutes later, France were down to ten men. Yoan Gourcuff was sent off for a challenge on Macbeth Sibaya. Colombian ref Oscar Ruiz adds to the French problems at this World Cup and Raymond Domenech looks hard done by. Rightly so.

After 37 minutes Katlego Mphela made it 2-0 to South Africa and a couple of minutes later in came the news from the Royal Bafokeng Stadium... Luiz Suarez had headed Uruguay in front.

The situation at half-time, at the risk of repeating myself: South Africa need to score two more and hope Uruguay maintain their lead over Mexico. That way, South Africa and Mexico will both end with four points and a plus-one goal difference... but the hosts will get through by dint of more goals scored (five to four).

It's the narrowest of margins, the slightest of chances... but South Africans are starting to believe... now for the longest 45 minutes of football they have ever witnessed.

50 minutes: Mphela hits the angle after a wonderful ball from Tshabalala who is playing well after a letting it all go to his head in the 3-0 defeat against Uruguay.

52 minutes: In Phokeng, Uruguay force to great saves and Mexico are struggling to find the form they showed in their 2-0 win over France last time out. It all comes from a free-kick from Diego Forlan, the former Manchester United striker who has blossomed at Atletico Madrid.

If those two goals - one for South Africa, one for Uruguay - had gone in, the hosts would be through.

54 minutes: Thierry Henry comes on for his 123rd French cap, equalling Fabien Barthez World Cup finals record of 17 appearances. Djibril Cisse, after nearing pulling one back for France, goes off.

57 minutes: Mamelodi Sundowns striker Mphela nearly does it at sundown... well saved. South Africa pushing hard. Steven Pienaar's follow up effort blocked. Domenech looks very, very old.

59 minutes: South Africa corner. Too strong. In Phokeng, Mexico pushing for the single point they need which would put both sides through regardless of South Africa's margin.

61 minutes: France hoofing it anywhere. Don't they realise their World Cup is done? Bernard Parker cuts in but his near-post effort is saved as he sails past Gael Clichy. South Africa playing with two up front in this one, and it shows.

64 minutes: Mexico go close to that conclusive equaliser. Francisco Rodriguez puts his diving header just wide. Henry has grabbed the captain's armband for France. It was taken away from his old Arsenal team-mate William Gallas before the game. France all over the place.

65 minutes: Was that a Henry handball? Our Irish friends may have noticed another Hand of Frog moment. South Africa turn to Siyabonga Nomvete, their veteran striker. What a chance to grab glory.

67 minutes: Parker off, Nomvete on. Wonder if they regret dropping the slightly unfit Benni McCarthy from their squad now? He's South Africa's record goalscorer. Eight years ago Nomvete scored in Bafana's only World Cup finals victory, a 1-0 win over Slovenia.

68 minutes: DISASTER for South Africa. Florent Malouda scores for France, lovely ball from Franck Ribery across the face under pressure.

70 minutes: Ribery suddenly looks interested. France starting to play but 2-1 down. Mexico making changes but still 1-0 down to Uruguay. They'll go through if it stays like this.

Jan Molby, Liverpool's now-elderly Great Dane, reckons Henry's arrival has galvanised the French, who will still be going home to rotten fruit. Three goal swing needed for South Africa, it's getting late.

79 minutes: Teko Modise on for South Africa... Tshabalala puts an ambitious shot high. Bloody Jabulani balloon! Nine on target for South Africa, four for France. Uruguay still lead 1-0. Looks like Mexico are going to creep through with four points and a superior goal difference.

82 minutes: Sidney Govou on for France. Need goals now. Three of them for Uruguay or South Africa. In eight minutes. Ain't going to happen.

South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira clutches his chest. He won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994. Not going to happen here.

86 minutes: Uruguay have an effort saved. Mexico are going to go through on goal difference ahead of South Africa... they'll play Argentina in the round of 16.

90 minutes: Uruguay balloon a shot over the bar. But in Bloemfontein it's France pushing forward. Group A is just about over. Uruguay go through as winners to play the Group B runners-up (could be South Korea, Greece or Nigeria)

Injury time: Uruguay have a late corner. Tshabalala has a late effort denied. Whistle's gone in Phokeng, 1-0 to Uruguay.

It's over. France, the 1998 champions and finalists four years ago, end bottom of Group A with one point. South Africa, 2-1 winners, lose out on goal difference to Mexico. Gutted. Uruguay win the group. This World Cup needed the hosts to go through. There was real hope after half-time, but the miracle was not to be.

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