By AVI CREDITOR
As the first halves of the respective games wore on, the odds against South Africa shrunk.
Goal South Africa. Red card France. Goal South Africa. Goal Uruguay.
The goal differential became managable for the host nation and the tension that usually encompasses the final day of group play was palpable.
However, Florent Malouda scored in the second half to deflate South Africa's hopes, and despite Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Mexico and the Bafana Bafana's 2-1 victory over 10-man France, South Africa became the first host country not to make it out of the group stage. Uruguay won Group A, and Mexico tied South Africa on points but had a stronger goal differential to advance to the Round of 16.
Here are brief recaps from Tuesday's two early matches:
URUGUAY 1, MEXICO 0
Luis Suarez scored on an open header off an Edinson Cavani cross in the 43rd minute, and Uruguay held its third consecutive opponent scoreless in securing the victory and Group A bragging rights.
Mexico had two golden chances to score, as Andres Guardado's ambitious shot from distance rattled the crossbar in the 22nd minute, and Francisco Rodriguez missed an open header from close range in the 65th minute.
Both teams will find out their knockout stage opponents later in the day, as Group B's table is still undetermined. Argentina is likely to win the group, but Greece, Nigeria and South Korea all have chances at securing second place.
SOUTH AFRICA 2, FRANCE 1
The hosts bowed out of the tournament with a valiant effort, defeating the defending runners-up and making Mexican players, coaches and fans sweat for 90 minutes.
Bongani Khumalo headed in a Siphiwe Tshabalala corner kick in the 20th minute to open the scoring. After Yoann Gourcuff was sent off with a questionable red card, South Africa went on the attack again, getting a 37th-minute goal from forward Katlego Mphela to lead 2-0 and cut Mexico's goal differential down to two.
South Africa couldn't find the back of the net after that, though, and Malouda tapped home a cross from Franck Ribery in the 70th minute to score France's first goal of the tournament and all but end South Africa's hopes.
GROUP A FINAL TABLE
1. Uruguay………7 points, +4 GD
2. Mexico………..4 points, +1 GD
3. South Africa…4 points, -2 GD
4. France…………1 point, -3 GD
SBI'S GROUP A BEST XI
How far do you think Uruguay can go? Think Mexico stands a chance if it has to face Argentina? Impressed by South Africa's final performance? Will you miss France's shenanigans?
Share your thoughts below.