The South African sights and sounds we have experienced and grown accustomed to during the first 12 days of the tournament, such as the Bafana Bafana players singing, jigging and jiving as one in the tunnel or as they arrive at the ground, or fans everywhere decorated in their garish but loveable yellow and green and the never-ending buzz of the increasingly bearable vuvuzelas, have been enjoyed and embraced by football fans across the globe. As a result of their style, spirit and endeavour (mainly off the pitch but we have also seen flashes on it), South Africa and its populace has gained many friends and enormous respect, and more than just South Africans were praying for a sign-off win yesterday against a French team that could not have demonstrated a starker contrast to the spirit of South Africa.
Nothing went to plan for France throughout their short stay in the competition, with quite unbelievable strife between the players and the coaching staff causing their campaign to explode viciously in their faces. Unfortunately for them their luck did not change in the match against South Africa as Yoann Gourcuff was rather harshly sent off shortly after they had conceded the first goal. Although Raymond Domenech, the France Coach, must have felt bitter frustration and anger like never before as his reign came to an end in utter ignominy at the final whistle, his behaviour in bizarrely refusing to shake Carlos Parreira’s hand was abhorrent. Quite why he felt the South Africa Coach was to blame for French football’s most sobering nadir is baffling, and his conduct was totally undignified and said a lot about the man. He clearly does not understand the spirit of the World Cup, which ironically the host nation has demonstrated impeccably, or that the competition is about more than the fortunes of the French. In effect, all the unsavoury incident did was confirm world football will not miss him, as he will now make way, as was announced before the tournament, for Laurent Blanc.
With South Africa, Cameroon and Nigeria all officially out of the tournament, Africa’s best hope of seeing a representative in the Round of 16 is Ghana, who have a tough match against Germany at Soccer City in Johannesburg this evening. The Black Stars have a youthful squad full of progressing talent, but it is questionable whether even they can slide into the knockout stages despite having four points on the board going into today’s crunch fixture. They are organised and stoical at the back but struggle to score goals – both of their goals in the competition thus far have come from the penalty spot. Germany should be far too strong for the Ghanaians, but this is the World Cup