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No miracle in Bloemfontein
by Paul Kennedy, June 22nd, 2010 1:43PM

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[GROUP A] There was no miracle in Bloemfontein, but South Africa sure made it interesting. Uruguay won Group A ahead of Mexico, which edged out South Africa on goal difference for second place and joins the Celeste in the round of 16. Here's what we liked and didn't like about the final day of play in Group A ...

What we liked ...

-- For a while, South Africa had millions of supporters around the host country on the edge of their seats. Bafana Bafana were leading France, 2-0, and Uruguay was beating Mexico, 1-0, meaning two more goals would put South Africa ahead of Mexico in the bid to claim second place in Group A. The turning point came when Katlego Mphela, who scored the second goal, hit the crossbar in the 51st minute. Mphela also had two shots stopped by French keeper Hugo Lloris. A late French goal reduced Bafana Bafana's margin of victory to 2-1.

-- Uruguay, winner of two World Cups, is back. The Celeste moved into the knockout phase of the World Cup for the first time in 20 years with a 1-0 win over Mexico. Uruguay's frontline of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez was tipped as one of the best at the World Cup, but its defense carried it into the next round with three shutouts in three games.

-- In perhaps his last game for France before his likely move to MLS, Thierry Henry came on in the second half of the game against South Africa and brought a needed spark to the Bleus. Florent Malouda scored the consolation goal that broke South African hearts.

What we didn't like ...

-- French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot told the French national team players they had tarnished the nation's image with Sunday's boycott of training, and in the first half they looked like they could have used the practice. They trailed, 2-0, at the half and it could have been worse.

-- Yoann Gourcuff was sent off for an elbow to the head of Macbeth Sibaya in the 25th minute of France's game against South Africa, ending what has been a miserable World Cup for the Bordeaux midfielder. Billed as the successor to retired star Zinedine Zidane, Gourcoff was the center of the internal fight for control of the French team. He started the first game against Uruguay but was dropped for the second game after being shunned by Franck Ribery.

-- Mexico moved into the round of 16 for the fifth straight time but its second-place finish means it will likely have to face Argentina -- just like it did four years ago. The pressure will be enormous. El Tri has never won a game in the knockout phase outside Mexico.



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