France's World Cup Nightmare Ends in Loss to South Africa

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa -- South Africa became the first World Cup host team to fail to advance from the first round despite beating also-eliminated France 2-1 Tuesday in Group A.

Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela scored a goal each in the first half against 10-man France. Florent Malouda pulled one back for the French in the 70th.

Uruguay and Mexico both advanced from Group A. The Uruguayans beat Mexico 1-0 in the other group match.

"Of course we're disappointed we did not qualify but I do not consider this a failure," South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said. "I believe the whole country is proud."

Khumalo put Bafana Bafana ahead in the 20th when he outjumped France midfielder Abou Diaby to knock a cross from Siphiwe Tshabalala into the net with his shoulder. Mphela doubled the lead in the 37th, outmuscling defender Gael Clichy to reach a low cross from Tsepo Masilela and scramble the ball across the line.

Just to accentuate a disastrous World Cup for the French, Yoann Gourcuff was sent off for elbowing Macbeth Sibaya in the 25th, leaving the 2006 finalists with 10 men. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Malouda made it 2-1 when he knocked in a cross from Franck Ribery.

"I'm sad for all the fans and everyone who support the French team," France coach Raymond Domenech said. "It's the hard and harsh reality of our situation. So I have a genuine sense of sadness."

After playing with a lone striker in its first two matches, South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira opted to play two men up front against France -- Bernard Parker and Mphela -- and it paid off.

Mphela caused trouble for the French defense, with strong runs and dangerous drives from distance. He nearly scored his second goal in the 43rd with a right-foot drive from 25 meters (yards) that forced a diving save from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Mphela continued to bother France's backline after the break, and should have scored in the 50th when he ran onto a pass from Steven Piennar, but his right-foot shot hit the crossbar.

The striker went close again five minutes later with a drive from 25 meters (yards) that Lloris punched away.

South Africa's attacking style brought the crowd at Free State Stadium to life, and the home fans roared with each Bafana Bafana foray into the French half.

Facing a 2-0 halftime deficit, Domenech brought on Malouda and striker Thierry Henry to try to boost his team's flagging attack.

The changes had little impact until Ribery set up Malouda.

Despite the win, South Africa became the first host nation in the tournament's 80-year history not to advance to the knockout round. The team finished even with Mexico on four points, but the Latin Americans go through with a better goal difference.

"Everyone knows and sees this group was one of the most tough groups in the World Cup," Parreira said. "Then we just didn't qualify because of our goal difference -- with a little bit of luck, we should have qualified."

The result also brings an end to France's inglorious World Cup campaign in South Africa. The squad has been in crisis since coach Raymond Domenech and the French Federation decided to send striker Nicolas Anelka home for an explicative-laced tirade against Domenech at halftime of the 2-0 loss to Mexico.

The players went on strike, refusing to train on Sunday to protest Anelka's absence.

Domenech dropped captain Patrice Evra from the lineup for leading the player strike, and gave Alou Diarra the captain's armband against South Africa. It was one of six changes he made to the lineup from the Mexico match.

The game was Domenech's last for France. Laurent Blanc will take over of a squad in disarray.

"I'm sad. This team has great potential. I have loved the French team," Domenech said. "This team never dies and it has everything it needs to succeed with players that are coming up through the ranks