Group A Final Redux: Uruguay Avoids Argentina, French Wave Red Card of Surrender

22 June 2010

South Africa fan is dejected after failing to qualify for the second round of the FIFA World Cup. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
With the final matches played out in Group A, I’m left with a feeling of sadness. For the first time in the history of the World Cup, we won’t see the host nation make the knockout stages. However, it wasn’t for a lack of trying, along with France giving up until a rumored MLS bound Thierry Henry decided he was going to salvage a little bit of pride in what is most likely his last World Cup.

I have to be honest and say that I was very surprised when I saw the opening few minutes from the French. Even in possession, they looked like they were in a secondary gear. When Khumalo scored, it only looked like Hugo Lloris cared.

That was proven five minutes later. It may have been Cisse who was trying the dramatic, but it was Yoann Gourcuff that decided taking out a week’s worth of frustration was a better course of action. Not only did he land an elbow right in the kisser of Sibaya, he decided that a forearm would make for a great exclamation point. With that red card, the French may as well have put up the white flag. It also gave South Africa hope.

Yes, it was a lucky deflection, but Mphela’s goal to put South Africa 2-0 up was deserved based on the balance of play. When halftime came, and Francisco Gonzalez gifted Luis Suarez an easy header beating Oscar Perez, it was easy to start believing that South Africa could get two more goals and overtake Mexico for second place. However, an Mphela effort off the post, and another that forced Lloris into a good save before the hour mark later, saw the wind taken out of the South African sails.

In fairness, France’s entire attitude changed the second Thierry Henry entered the fray. He looked like the only player France had that tried to leave South Africa with a little bit of pride. With his entrance, the entire attitude of the team changed. France started to play with more cohesion, something that lacked the previous fifty-five minutes. While Henry wasn’t a part of
France’s goal, I don’t think they would have scored it had he not come on.

I also have to wonder what would have happened had Mphela’s shot, not long into the second half, had gone in instead of off the post. Had he scored, I think South Africa could have easily qualified for the knockout stages of the competition.

In the other match in Group A, I have to give both Uruguay and Mexico credit. They both played an open attacking game, and there were plenty of scoring chances. However, over the balance of the ninety minutes, Mexico never truly threatened Fernando Muslera. Luis Suarez did twice in the first half, and capitalized on the second. As I mentioned above, it was just horrible marking by Francisco Gonzalez, but Suarez did well to find the space and sneak the header on the near post.

One complaint I did have about this match was the final twenty-five minutes. It seemed as if once they found out France pulled one back against South Africa, both were just happy to see full time. That could be to Mexico’s downfall. Their reward for not winning: only another round of sixteen match-up with Argentina.

South Africa, thank you for showing us that football can still be fun. Their singing and dancing before each of their three matches will be something I won’t forget.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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