European soccer powers fight to survive
Johannesburg: European soccer powers Germany and England fight to stay in the World Cup on Wednesday after disgraced France were humiliated and South Africa became the first hosts to fall before the second round.
The first World Cup in Africa has so far been dismal for Europe with former champions France plumbing the depths after a demoralising player revolt that shocked their nation. It was their most wretched tournament performance.
To guarantee reaching the second round, Germany must beat Ghana on Wednesday, with their first choice striker Miroslav Klose suspended, while England -- whose camp has at times seemed to almost rival the chaos among the French -- have to win against tiny Slovenia, who top Group C.
Ghana will be fighting for what looks like the last African hope in the first edition of the tournament on its soil, which started with a record six teams from the continent.
In Wednesday`s other matches, Australia need a big win against Serbia and for other results to go their way to get to the second round from Group D, and the United States play Algeria in a Group C match where a win would be enough to advance and a draw could be enough against the bottom placed North Africans.
Argentina confirmed Latin American dominance on Tuesday night, finally breaking stubborn Greek resistance to eliminate another European side 2-0 near the end of the game, giving them a perfect first round record of three wins.
South Africa, always outsiders to qualify, held their heads high after their first triumph over a major soccer power when they beat former giants France 2-1.
"I am proud of the boys. They made this country proud. They proved that they have made progress," said tearful Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
The hosts finished third on goal difference in Group A, after Mexico, who lost 1-0 to Uruguay. Former champions France, riven by dissent, finished bottom in the group and will return home to a storm of condemnation by public and politicians.
"The match was a catastrophe. We`re all in despair," said French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot.
The French antics, where the players rebelled over the sending home of striker Nicolas Anelka for insulting the coach, caused one of the most extraordinary scandals at a World Cup.
With rebel leader and captain Patrice Evra left out of the team, France`s torment got even worse after 25 minutes against South Africa when Yoann Gourcuff was controversially sent off after a heading duel with MacBeth Sibaya in the goalmouth.
Uruguay`s 1-0 victory over Mexico in Rustenburg confirmed the dominance of South America. The brilliance of favourites Argentina, Brazil and even smaller Latin American teams has been in sharp contrast to the weak African and European performances.
England, packed with Premier League stars and seen before the tournament as contenders for a second World Cup after their win at home in 1966, seem in tatters on and off the pitch.
Germany looked dominant in thrashing Australia 4-0 in their first match before going down to a shock 1-0 defeat by Serbia.
The United States, seen as one of their strongest ever sides before the tournament, are likely to restructure their midfield for the clash with improving Algeria.
South Africa`s elimination may quieten the vuvuzelas a little but the nation is proud of the achievements of its underdog team and even more of its success in organising a successful tournament, despite years of gloomy predictions from critics that it would be a disaster.
"I remain confident that South Africans will continue to be fantastic hosts for the next two and a half weeks and make the most of this incredible time in our country`s history, which has already seen us achieve so much," said Danny Jordaan, the chief local organiser.
South African fans showed their pride in vuvuzela-blowing celebrations in Johannesburg`s ritzy Sandton district.
"We might have lost the game but we`re still winning because we`re hosting the World Cup," said trainee pilot Katiya Mongezi.
President Jacob Zuma said in a Reuters Insider Television interview that the huge sports event would create jobs and boost economic growth. Analysts say the World Cup could add about 0.5 percentage points to GDP this year.