June 23, 2010
Mexico 0-1 Uruguay
France 1-2 South Africa
3. South Africa
South Africa ended their World Cup campaign on a high note with a victory over France in Bloemfontein. The European superpower and the Bafana Bafana both needed to record big wins to progress, but the home side will still take heart from a first World Cup win over a traditional big name and for bowing out with a courageous performance.
South Africa will regret not playing with such intent and vigour in their pivotal second game with Uruguay.
The home side were thoroughly dismantled that day and ultimately paid the price for the amount of goals they conceded because Mexico progressed in their stead despite finishing on the same amount of points.
As for Les Bleus, they head home in disgrace.
Player unrest and in-squad turmoil over the past three weeks finally caught up with the team after their loss to Mexico last Thursday. The fall out from that game was clearly evident today as Raymond Domenech made six changes to his starting line up and those that were on the pitch performed shamefully.
South Africa's early two goal lead was aided by the dismissal of Yoann Gourcuff, but their lead was fully deserved anyway. In fact, it could have been three before half time had Katlego Mphela kept his shot inside the far post.
Bafana Bafana started the second half with similar intent but as time past the four goals they needed looked unlikely.
Once Florent Malouda got one back the game had fizzled out as the home side knew their fate had already been settled.
Uruguay, on the other hand, were the stand out team from Group A.
They have gone through their three games without conceding a goal and have attacked confidently in their final two games. The have both defensive solidity and a goal threat, something a lot of underdogs have failed to combine in the group stages.
Their game with Mexico in Rustenburg was heavily expected to be a draw but both teams attacked from the off as they tried their best to avoid a second round meeting with Argentina. That honour ultimately befell Mexico for the second consecutive tournament.
A sole header from Ajax goal machine Luis Suarez was enough to settle an open game. Both El Tri and La Celeste had their chances to score further goals but the Uruguayan defence stood firm to capture top place in Group B.
Uruguay are playing in only their second World Cup since 1990, the last time they reached the second round. The two time World champions will feel they now have a great chance to create new football memories for their country as South Korea now stand in their path.
Mexico have qualified for their fifth consecutive second round, a destination they would have expected to reach before the tournament. Unfortunately for the Mexicans they are faced with the daunting prospect of Argentina, again.
Argentina 2-0 Greece
South Korea 2-2 Nigeria
2. South Korea
Argentina, even with a raft of changes to their starting lineup, completed a clean sweep of group stage victories. Maxi Rodrigues, Sergio Aguero, and Diego Milito came in to form a new attack but la Albiceleste were just as strong as in their opening two games.
The Argentinians had been impressive going forward against Nigeria and South Korea and that form continued tonight in Polokwane. If anything they were even more attacking as Greece were happy to sit back and hope to steal a goal on the counterattack.
The goals finally came late on from Martin Demichelis and veteran striker Martin Palermo. Both were greeted by mass celebrations on the pitch and in the dugout as both were extremely popular goal scorers.
Palermo spent ten years in the wilderness before a recall from Diego
Maradona last year, while
Demichelis has been an error prone defender in recent games for his club and country.
The Greeks started with only one man up front.
Samaras had the unenviable task of leading the line in what was a generally defensive performance. The Celtic striker caused some problems for the Argentinian defense when he got the ball but often he was too isolated and forced to create opportunities on his own.
He did have one opening with the scores still level but he hurriedly shot across the goal and wide of the far post. The Europeans now bow out as a result of their continued negativity but Argentina appear to be more united and confident with each passing game.
Argentina will be joined in the second round by South Korea, who managed to hang on for the draw that sees the Red Devils progress from the group stage outside their own country for the first time.
The story about their draw with Nigeria is really about the opposition though. Nigeria lost their opening two games but still had the chance to qualify had they scored a third decisive goal in their final game. With the score at 1-0, the Super Eagles hit the post and with the side's level for the final 20 minutes both Ayegbeni Yakubu and Obafemi Martins missed chances that were probably easier to score.
Coach Lars Lagerback has been paid over €1 million for the three competitive games his side have played but surely the millions of Nigerians in west Africa should be worthy of more. Had Sani Kaita not been sent off with his team 1-0 up against Greece they may well have qualified but over all they got what they deserved.
The Koreans were more reminiscent of their opening game than their heavy defeat to Argentina.
They passed briskly and showed high levels of energy as one would expect. The Asians were also quite adept with free kicks, an attribute most countries don't possess so far.
The tournament has been a bad one for African teams, as Nigeria become the third to officially bow out with Cameroon and South Africa, but the game is clearly on the up in Asia as not only South Korea but Japan have a great opportunity to progress to the second round.