South Africa and France bow out

BLOEMFONTEIN - A courageous South Africa and a disgraced France went out of the World Cup on Tuesday after the hosts beat the troubled 2006 runners-up 2-1 in their final Group A match to restore some pride.

The victory, with first-half goals from Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela, was not enough for South Africa to progress as Uruguay and Mexico finished in the top two places while France, who made several changes, suffered the ignominy of coming last.

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South Africa became the first host nation to go out of the World Cup in the first round since the tournament began in 1930 but the Bafana Bafana departed with their heads held high and with the adoration of their fans undiminished.

Uruguay beat Mexico 1-0 in the other game in Rustenburg to finish on seven points with the Mexicans edging out South Africa on goal difference after both teams finished on four points.

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France propped up the group with one point from three games. France's stuttering performance followed a players' revolt against coach Raymond Domenech which saw Nicolas Anelka sent home and captain Patrice Evra omitted from the team. The 1998 champions can expect a storm of protest when they get home.

PROUD HOSTS

The South Africans, on the other hand, played their hearts out and gave the fans lots to cheer at the Free State Stadium.

"I am proud of the boys. They made this country proud. They proved that they have made progress," South Africa's Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said.

The beleaguered Domenech tried to put a brave face on one of the most disastrous World cup campaigns ever mounted by a major football nation.

"I am sad for all of the fans and all those that supported the French team and all those who like the French team," he said. "I am in distress I am feeling the difficulties that we have all felt in the past few days."

South Africa started with great vigour in front of a 39,415 crowd while the French players looked like they would rather be strolling along the River Seine than playing the vibrant hosts.

The South Africans deservedly opened the scoring after 20 minutes when France keeper Hugo Lloris misjudged the ball at a corner and allowed Khumalo to lean in over Abou Diaby to score.

Five minutes later playmaker Yoann Gourcuff, until then about the only Frenchman to show any spirit, was controversially sent off when referee Oscar Ruiz of Colombia judged that he had elbowed MacBeth Sibaya in a goalmouth heading duel.

South Africa took advantage and the superb Katlego Mphela caught out the France defence in the 37th minute, bundling the ball over the line after a square pass from Tsepo Masilela.

PASSIONATE FANS

Driven on by their passionate fans, and with Uruguay leading Mexico 1-0, South Africa sensed the possibility that they might just run up eno