In a spriited performance today that saw the 2010 World Cup hosts beat France 2-1, South Africa became the first host nation of the competition to be eliminated at the first group stage of the competition. That statement is a bit harsh on Bafana Bafana given previous hosts of the World Cup include Italy, Brazil, England, Argentina, Italy, France and Germany, and that USA finished in their group in 1994 back in the day when 4 of the 6 teams who finished 3rd progressed. The party atmosphere may be dampened but the show will go on.
Out With A Victory
South Africa put an end to France’s embarrassing campaign that saw them pick up just 1 point, in their opening group match against a nervous and unadventurous Uruguay side. Florent Malouda scored France’s first and only goal of the competition today. They finish with the same number of goals and points as they did in Euro 2008. Raymond Domenech’s time in charge of France is now over. In comes Laurent Blanc.
With the expense of those two, it is Uruguay and Mexico who progress from Group A as predicted. Uruguay the winners also correctly backed prior to the start of the tournament. I also laid France winning the group, while hoping that I don’t come across boastful.
Deserved Group Winners
Uruguay are deserved winners in their group. Diego Forlan has been one of the best players in the competition, at least in my competition. He has two goals to his name in three matches, looks composed on the ball as he leads the attack well. His partner up front Luis Suarez got his first goal today which made up for his first two matches where he looked to go to ground every time he got the ball. I’ll be interested to see if he makes it in one of the big leagues with a move looking likely to happen this summer.
Diego Maradona Keeps Winning
Argentina were my big bet today and I was grateful they finally broke down a stubborn and defence-minded Greece side. For a while it looked like it may never happen, but their fourth goal from a set piece in this competition changed that. Martin Palermo would seal the deal late on, following up on Lionel Messi’s parried effort. Argentina have an exciting prospect in round two as they face Mexico.
Argentina have looked good in attack this tournament, but they haven’t been tested at the back. When Jonas Gutierrez, playing out of position at right back comes up against top left wingers he will be in trouble. Expect Giovani dos Santos to give him problems in round two. Lionel Messi was man marked out of the game today until Argentina took the lead. The same thing happened to the Barcelona player in two legs versus Inter Milan in this year’s Champions League. Gonzalo Higuain still has more to show despite a hat trick versus South Korea. A touch of fortune would be a generous way of saying how he got those three goals. Or being in the right place at the right time.
Qualifying with Argentina, 5 points behind them in Group B is South Korea. Looking at the highlights they were somewhat fortunate today, firstly with their second goal that on another day would probably have been saved. And later with Yakubu’s how did you miss that moment in the second half. If you haven’t seen it already, make sure you check it out. South Korea face Uruguay in the first of the last 16 matches on Saturday June 26th.