France was eliminated in a 2-1 loss to South Africa, which became the first World Cup host in 80 years to fail to advance from the first round but ended with a win that at least gave its fans some measure of joy.
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa — The referee waved a red card at the French player, ejecting him from the game for a nasty, elbow foul. His coach buried his head in his hands.
Soon after, South Africa put the French out of their misery with a 2-1 victory, and France’s World Cup humiliation was complete.
Seen as undeserving competitors even before the tournament began, France is going home early — winless and the laughingstock of the soccer world.
They were eliminated Tuesday by South Africa, which became the first World Cup host in 80 years to fail to advance from the first round but ended with a win that at least gave its fans some measure of joy.
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“They played with pride, passion, skill and commitment and they left everything they possibly had out on that pitch,” World Cup organizing committee chief Danny Jordaan said. “They go out with their heads held very high.”
Even in Paris, fans who gathered near the Eiffel Tower to watch the match on video screens booed their own team and cheered for South Africa.
As 1998 World Cup champions and losing finalists in 2006, France churns out top-quality players who compete for Europe’s biggest leagues and had reason to believe it would at least get beyond the first round.
Instead, its multimillionaire players embarrassed themselves and their nation by rebelling against their coach and the French Football Federation, even taking the extraordinary step of going on strike.
France’s players roused themselves in spurts Tuesday, but not enough to secure a win that might have started to make amends for their off-field behavior.
Instead, France has now failed to advance at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
The match was only 25 minutes old when the referee ejected midfielder Yoann Gourcuff for an elbow that felled Macbeth Sibaya of South Africa like a woodman’s ax and caused France coach Raymond Domenech to bury his head in his hands.
The match was Domenech’s last in six years as coach, and one of his last acts was to refuse the traditional handshake with his counterpart for South Africa, Carlos Alberto Parreira. At a postmatch news conference, Domenech refused to explain his act. But it typified the poisonous atmosphere in the French camp.
“I am in pain, in distress,” he said of France’s failed campaign.
Uruguay 1, Mexico 0
RUSTENBURG, South Africa — Uruguay won Group A and Mexico also advanced after Luis Suarez scored in the 43rd minute to give the South Americans a victory.
Suarez, Uruguay’s most dangerous striker all day, ran unguarded to the back post and headed in Edinson Cavani’s brilliant cross for his first goal of the tournament.
Argentina 2, Greece 0
POLOKWANE, South Africa — Martin Demichelis and Martin Palermo scored second-half goals to help Argentina earn first place in Group B. It will play Mexico in the round of 16, while Greece has been eliminated.
Argentina left seven regular starters on the bench and created few good chances against the Greek defense.
South Korea 2, Nigeria 2
DURBAN, South Africa — South Korea reached the second round by holding Nigeria to a draw in a thrilling match.
Lee Jung-soo and Park Chu-young scored for South Korea after Kalu Uche had given Nigeria the lead in the 12th minute. Ayegbeni Yakubu netted a 69th-minute penalty kick to draw Nigeria level again — moments after Yakubu missed a wide-open net.
Nigeria is the second African team ousted from the first World Cup held on the continent.