Africans Out Of Africa - Little Boy Blue's World Cup Diary

Last updated : 25 June 2010 By Little Boy Blue
Both had left themselves too much to do in the final round of games, although Messrs Yakubu and Martins both missed glorious chances which might have got Nigeria out of jail.   South Africa needed a sensational sequence of events to keep their dream alive, yet for a spell in the first half it looked like they may manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat.  Against the sulking French, a header from Bongani Khumalo and a scrambled effort from Katlego Mphela gave them a 2-0 lead.  With France having earlier been reduced to ten men when Gourcuff was rather harshly adjudged to have led with his elbow in a clash with MacBeth Sibaya, the three or four goal win the hosts required was a goer.  A disallowed goal, a shot off the post, wave after wave of attack, the atmosphere in Bloemfontein was manic and, when news of Uruguay going ahead against Mexico was beamed around the stadium, mania became hysteria.   Unfortunately for South Africa , the sense of injustice the French felt about Gourcuff's red card restored a bit of spirit to their performance and they stuck a pin in the balloon when Florent Malouda pegged a goal back in the second half.  Despite great inspiration from the crowd, having burst a gut to get back into contention, Malouda's goal left them relying on Uruguay to go gung-ho against the Mexicans and they just ran out of steam.  Their World Cup dream is over but the memories will live on for the years to come.   Anybody expecting Uruguay and Mexico to just go through the motions in Rustenburg was well off the mark.  I admit that, knowing a draw would take both teams through, I had a hunch it would end 0-0.  But both were looking to win the game and the group - thus steering clear of Argentina - and served up an excellent match.  Luis Suarez shot across the face of the Mexican goal, skipper Lugano went close with a header and, at the other end, Andres Guardado smashed a superb 30-yearder off the crossbar.   The decisive moment came just before half-time when Diego Forlan won the ball in midfield, he released Edison Cavani on the right and his inch-perfect cross was headed home by Suarez.   Towards the end, knowing a South African goalfest was unlikely to materialize. The Mexicans settled for making sure they lost no more goals and  Uruguay were quite happy to take their 1-0 victory and progress as group winners.   Argentina v Greece had all the makings of a mismatch but the Greeks readopted the formula which worked a treat for them at Euro2004.  It was a case of pulling everyone behind the ball, denying Messi any space and breaking up the game at every opportunity.  Then again, when I say the pulled everyone behind the ball, I mean everyone but Samaras but Ha-ha doesn't count, does he?  He worked a fair shift and missed his customary sitter when, after fluffing his initial shot, blasted the ball across the face of the goal when he had a gaping net in front of him.  How much money does Ronnie Cully think Septic will get for this numpty?  £6,000,000?  Keep taking the tablets, Ronnie!!!   Argentina finally made the breakthrough with two goals in the last quarter-hour.  Demichelis battered one into the roof of the net from close range after a header from a corner had been blocked, then a wonderful run from Messi, a save from Tzorvas and a clinically cool strike from Martin Palermo from the rebound wrapped things up.  It was certainly a victory for the beautiful game over the cynical, blanket defence, flat-back-nine stuff the Greeks perfected in Portugal six years ago.      In Durban , Nigeria had a great chance to keep the African flag flying.  Victory over South Korea would have taken them through on goal difference and all looked good when Kalu Uche opened the scoring.  But sloppy defending from a free-kick enabled Lee Chung-Soo to grab the equaliser, then a free-kick from Park Chu-Young beat the wall and the keeper (did he think the ball was a time bomb?) to give the Koreans the lead.   Knowing they faced elimination, Nigeria really went for it, Yakubu shot wide from just a yard out (it was even worse the Iwelemyo's howler v Norway .  Van Vossen? Lets not go there!), the Yak then levelled the scores from the penalty spot and Obafemi Martins looked set to be acclaimed as a national hero when he burst clean through on goal, only to dink his shot round the keeper and past the post.   I'm not sure how things are with human rights in Nigeria .  It may well be safe for Yakubu and Martins to go back home but, if I was Sani Kaite I might not feel quite so comfortable.  It was his madness in lashing out at Torisidis when Ghana were 1-0 up and coasting against Greece which turned their campaiugn.  It wouldn't surprise me if, instead of returning to Nigeria, he has decided he will be better off being the first player back to pre-season training at his club, Alania Vladikavkaz.  Those Bears who sampled the delights of that God-forsaken place (the result wasn't too bad!) will know where I'm coming from.   The first knock-out round is beginning to take shape but, of course, if you tune in to UK television (English TV!!!) you'll be told this World Cup won't really get started until Don Fabio has taken his team through to the last sixteen.  It is far from a certainty.   Tomorrow: England v Slovenia , USA v Algeria , Germany v Ghana , Australia v Serbia