Au revoir, Les Bleus. Et, franchement, bon débarras.
Yes, I’m glad that the French were eliminated from the World Cup today in such an ignominious manner. What a shambles of a team – an unsportsmanlike disgrace from the rebellious players right up to the coach, Raymond Domenech, who wasn’t even decent enough to shake the hand of the victorious South African manager after his team’s 2-1 loss. Whatever the reasons behind Anelka’s foul-mouthed tirade and subsequent expulsion from the squad, the attitude of the players was more than counter-productive, and the French public are rightly appalled at what has happened.
Contrast that with the sheer joy that the South Africans brought to the tournament. Surely the happiest hosts ever, they injected a cavalcade of energy and music with them wherever they went. Even a bad loss to Uruguay couldn’t dim the good feeling for long, and once again today the squad were singing even before they made the journey to the Free State Stadium. For a while, 2-0 up playing against 10 men, it looked like the impossible dream of a winning margin big enough to send them through to the second round was within their grasp. Alas, it was not to be. But like the crowd’s vuvuzela players, they finally learnt how to play in a rhythm, and proved worthy victors in the match.
South Africa now hold the unfortunate record of being the first hosts ever to exit the World Cup at the first round stage, but this had to happen in the tournament eventually, and it shouldn’t detract from their fantastic attitude and sheer enthusiasm for the game. It’s goodbye to Bafana Bafana, then (so good, they named them twice), but hopefully the atmosphere they’ve brought to the competition won’t be lost in the later stages despite their absence.
The contrast with the sullen French couldn’t be more stark. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. May their plane journey home be with L’Air de Ryan. And I don’t mean Giggs. No doubt packing their egos will cost them a few extra Euros.