Unfortunately for the hosts, the scoreline was not enough to leapfrog second-placed Mexico and secure qualification, but Bafana Bafana will take pride from a dominant display.
The humiliated French nation had been awash with calls for the players to restore some dignity into their campaign. The outburst and subsequent axing of Nicolas Anelka, the indignation of Patrice Evra and general disobedience have all served to undermine Raymond Domenech’s side’s World Cup.
And matters worsened on Tuesday as South Africa raced to a two-goal advantage in the first half while captain Evra and former talisman Thierry Henry watched from the sidelines. Bordeaux playmaker Yohann GourcuffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s was sent off, only compounding the sense of impending doom.
The host nation, for their part, looked rampant.Ã‚Â In the 19th minute, Khumalo out-jumped Abou Diaby from a corner and headed into the net left empty by a stranded Hugo Lloris.
South AfricaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second came amid comical French defending as GaÃƒÂ«l Clichy and Lloris failed to adequately deal with UmbanaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cross, affording Mphela the chance to cement Bafana Bafana’s lead.
The French players trudged in at half-time fortunate to be within touching distance of their opponents. Raymond Domenech surely expected further mutiny in his tempestuous dressing room.
Talk of players boycotting the match seemed a viable option in retrospect.
The French, however, steadied themselves in the second half. Franck RibÃƒÂ©ryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s darting run provided substitute Florent Malouda the opportunity to rescue an ounce of pride.
At the final whistle the obstinate Domenech refused to shake hands with South Africa manager Carlos Alberto Parreira. The French manager infuriated by what he perceived to be South African gamesmanship which led to Gourcuff’s dismissal.
Prior to Tuesday’s match Nicolas Sarkozy led calls for France’s coach and players to regain some of the dignity lost at this World Cup.
Domenech’s petulance after the match, however, only hindered their image further. It marks the end of an era for French football.
France will surely not miss Raymond Domenech.
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