Heartbreak for South Africa

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BLOEMFONTEIN, June 22 – Hosts South Africa suffered World Cup heartbreak on Tuesday despite a stirring 2-1 win over 10-man France, crashing out of the competition on goal difference.It means the Bafana Bafana are the first host nation to be knocked out in the first round of a World Cup despite finishing level on points with Group A rivals Mexico.

France coach Raymond Domenech saw his six year reign come to an end and admitted he wished France had played with as much spirit in their first two matches after a campaign marred by in-fighting and the players going on strike over the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka.

"They showed real heart, real fight, real generosity of spirit out there today," said 58-year-old Domenech, who appeared to get involved in a verbal altercation with opposite number Carlos Alberto Parreira at the final whistle.

"I feel great sadness that what has happened happened not only for myself but for the French people."

Roared on by a passionate crowd, South Africa took the lead on 20 minutes when Bongani Khumalo rose highest to head in a corner from the left swung in by Siphiwe Tshabalala, sparking scenes of joy among the yellow-clad fans.

The contest was given a dramatic twist midway through the first half when Yoann Gourcuff was sent off for using his elbow against MacBeth Sibaya with beleaguered French coach Raymond Domenech burying his face in his hands.

And the Bafana Bafana doubled their lead on 37 minutes when Katlego Mphela poked the ball past Hugo Lloris after France failed to clear.

France threw on Florent Malouda for Andre Pierre Gignac at the start of the second half but the momentum was with South Africa, with Steven Pienaar directing play from midfield and Tshabalala terrorising the French defence.

Early in the second half Mphela went desperately close to extending South Africa’s lead after a pass from Tshabalala but it hit the woodwork with the goalkeeper beaten.

Djibril Cisse lashed a shot over from the edge of the penalty box moments before Thierry Henry was brought on to replace him.

Mphela, who looked increasingly dangerous, then forced Lloris into a save from the edge of the box as the atmosphere in the stadium reached fever pitch and South Africa seemed certain to add to their tally amid intense pressure.

But France shocked the crowd when Malouda scored with 70 minutes on the clock, making Bafana Bafana’s task almost impossible and the French were able to take the sting out of the game despite being a man down.

In a desperate last push Tshabalala went close but South Africa’s World Cup dreams were snuffed out.

To squeeze into the last 16, 1998 World Cup winners France and South Africa were hoping to win by a big margin and for a positive result from the Uruguay-Mexico match.

Both teams made sweeping changes to their starting line-ups as they went in search of goals.

Domenech left captain Patrice Evra out of the team following a bust-up over the expulsion of star striker Nicolas Anelka from the squad.

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