It’s a good trick, France arrived at the World Cup universally disliked after the Thierry Henry handball that saw them through at Irelands expense, and still they managed to go home even more hated after their bizarre and distasteful antics. Their parting gift was coach Domenech’s refusal to shake the hand of South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira after their last defeat.
France 1, South Africa 2
Both sides needed a four goal margin to have a chance of survival, after 37 minutes the miracle looked possible for the hosts as they led 2-0. Khumalo opened the scoring after 20 minutes, Tshabalala sent in a great corner and as French keeper Lloris flapped at thin air, Khumalo had a free header. Just six minutes later Gourcuff was off after leaning down with his elbow on Sibaya as they rose for the ball. Then Mphela bundled in a second goal from a Tshabalala cross to send the crowd wild.
Mphela saw his shot clip off the post early in the second half and their moment had passed, France had enough composure about them for Ribery to set up an easy finish for Malouda to kill off the South Africa revival. It was a brave effort from the home nation and put the French to shame, the coach’s childish after match reaction will do little to protect them from the deserved critiicism they go home to.
Mexico 0, Uruguay1
These two were pretty sure of going through to the next stage and could have played out a tame draw but all credit, they served up a good game with plenty of chances. Suarez and Perreira both went close for Uruguay early on but Mexico’s Guardado had the crowd on their feet with a 30 yard screamer that rattled the crossbar. Just before the break Suarez got the only goal, with his head from Cavani’s neat cross.
More chances for both sides in the second half, Blanco tested the Uruguay keeper within minutes of the whistle but Rodriguez missed a six yard sitter for Mexico who finished second to their opponents in the group.
Nigeria 2, South Korea 2
The scrap for qualification saw a tense struggle with Korea earning the quarter final place. Uche drew first blood for Nigeria after 12 minutes, the ball fell to him in the box and his marker just stood still and didn’t offer a tackle as he scored. Korea drew level just before half time with a well flighted free kick being met by Lee Jung Soo sneakling in at the post.
The Koreans pulled ahead the other side of the break Park Chu Young hit a perfect curling free kick to beat the Nigeria keeper. Worst miss of the finals so far goes to Yakubu, the ball broke to him clear just 4 yards in front of goal and somehow it put it wide. At least he had a chance to amend a few minutes later as Kim Nam pulled down Ogbuke and Yukubu slotted in his penalty. It was in vain though as the draw was not enough to keep Nigeria in the competition.
Greece 0, Argentina 2
Fairly easy for Argentina but Messi was frustrated with Greece keeper Tzorvas pulling off some superb saves to dent him and his team mates. Aquero and Veron both tested the Greek stopper in early play and Messi was his usual busy self, creating chances for everyone but not getting the goal he wanted.
After a goal less first half Samaras nearly took a shock lead for Greece, beating two defenders but shooting across the goal mouth. An Aquero header and long range Messi strike both found the gloves of Tzorvas before Demichelis picked up an easy goal as late as 77 minutes. Messi had a late effort saved but Palermo was on hand to finish the game with a 2-o scoreline.