‘We fought for every ball’

2010-06-23 00:00

THERE were mixed emotions for the Bafana Bafana players following their 2-1 Group A victory over France at the Free State Stadium last night, which was not enough to see the team through to the World Cup second round.

France came into the game in a state of meltdown following the expulsion from their squad of Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka and a training ground disagreement between captain Patrice Evra and fitness trainier Robert Duverne.

But Bafana were full value for their money, producing their best performance of the tournament against the ninth-ranked French, who still managed to show their class with a fighting second-half performance.

While the Bafana players emerged from the change-rooms looking clearly distraught at not having realised their dream of reaching the last-16, they did express satisfaction at having ended the tournament on a high note and restoring the nation’s pride.

Many players also turned their focus to the 2012 African Cup of Nations, which Bafana must qualify for.

The man of the match, goal-scorer Katlego Mphela, said: “The will was there. The fighting spirit was there. We fought for every ball and were a bit unfortunate that we didn’t take our chances. But we beat France in the World Cup and it’s good for us.”

MacBeth Sibaya, who had a storming game in defensive midfield, said the team wanted to win the game to reward the fanatical support they have received from South Africans.

“We’re happy with the result,” Sibaya said. “We had a slim chance to qualify for the second round by scoring six goals and hoping one of the other teams in our group won their game.

“But we did well and we restored our pride.”

Sibaya said referee Oscar Ruiz’s decision to send off France playmaker Yoann Gourcuff in the 26th minute for an elbow on the midfielder was the correct one. “I have six stitches and it was an elbow so I think a direct red card was a fair call,” he said.

Sibaya praised coach Carlos Albert Parreira for having knocked the World Cup hosts into competitive shape for the tournament.

“He’s transformed a lot of players to international level. He did well with the players he took to [a training camp in] Brazil and introduced them to a lot of tactics.”

France coach Raymond Domenech, believed to be the source of the disarray in the French camp, further discredited his own reputation by refusing to shake Parreira’s hand after the game.

“He said I have offended the French team,” Parreira said.

“Later his assistant coach told me that it was because, when France qualified with the so-called ‘hand of goal’ [by Thierry Henry against Ireland] he [Domenech] claims I said France don’t deserve to be at the World Cup. But I don’t recall ever saying that.”

The coach said Bafana’s performance at the World Cup has laid a foundation for the future of South African football. “This team now has an identity. If I’m proud of anything it’s having given this team a face,” he said.

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