Zuma: South African people true champions

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa bowed out of the World Cup at the first round stage but President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday the successful hosting of the tournament made its people the champions.

Africa's economic giant is crowing over its successful hosting of the world's biggest sporting tournament, defying sceptics who had doubted it could organise the tournament, including completing construction of stadiums on time.

"We extend a special thank you to South Africans for the passion and excitement that has kept the tournament alive for the past weeks. We thank you for putting the country first," Zuma said in a statement on Saturday.

"They are the stars and champions of this tournament," he said on the eve of the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.

Zuma's government has played down reports that despite an outpouring of support for other teams from the continent, locals have threatened to turn on poor African migrants competing for scarce jobs in the continent's largest economy when the World Cup ends.

"The committed support given to Ghana and other African teams displayed African unity, love and solidarity in practice," Zuma continued.

"We thank you for embracing one another and Africa. We thank (you for) your opening up your country and your hearts to the world in a most patriotic and memorable manner (and) for making this a truly African World Cup."

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