I’m trying something a little different today; as the last two games in each group are played at the same time it’s not possible for me to watch them all live and write match reports afterwards. In any case I actually left the house for a bit yesterday to fail my driving test and then spend the evening in the pub, and the idea of writing full-length match reports based on highlights isn’t really what this is all about. Also I am terribly tired and hungover and a bit grumpy and I’m just feeling a bit lazy, okay? Don’t judge me. Sheesh.
Anyway, France have gone home, apparently flying economy class, shifting focus from England’s inevitable exit for 24 hours, which is nice of them. Raymond Domenech now leaves the post after six years in which he has taken them to a World Cup final, been knocked out of two tournaments in the group stages, and generally made a massive arse of himself. He even found time to put his foot in it last night, refusing to shake South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira’s hand after France’s 2-1 loss for some perceived slight or other that no-one really cares about.
Obviously there have been plenty of theories about why this France side were so poor: Domenech’s obvious limitations as a technical and people manager; an ageing side of overpaid stars past their best; a squad riven with internal divisions; choosing in Patrice Evra a player with a penchant for confrontation. But by far the most interesting opinion was that given by Philipe Auclair of France Football magazine on the Guardian’s excellent World Cup Daily podcast.
Auclair’s theory is that this squad is emblematic of the social unrest in French society, where the rich live in the cities and the poor in the suburbs, this generation of French youth brought up with a deep-seated mistrust of and disrespect for authority. Basically, it’s like La Haine with Franck Ribery as Vince. That’s how I imagined it, anyway, Ribery doing his Taxi Driver bit in front of the mirror and so on. It’s also a typically snooty and therefore immensely French way of looking at things, so it all fits together quite nicely.
Laurent Blanc takes over from Domenech after the World Cup and must be casting wistful glances at the impressive Bordeaux side he leaves behind. His first decision will be which players he should ever bother to pick again. Anelka has surely played his last game for Les Bleus, perhaps Evra too, and Henry is fit for the glue factory in any case. One wonders if an irate French public (and government!) will let him stop there.
For South Africa this was a fine end to a disappointing fortnight in which they have become the first hosts ever to exit the tournament at the group stage, outclassing a side with pedigree if not form to ensure Bafana Bafana leave the tournament with their heads held high. They might still have made it – Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Mexico left the door open for them if they could score enough goals – but it was not to be.
So, Uruguay top the group, and face South Korea in the second round. They have impressed but are heavily reliant on Diego Forlan: while Ajax frontman Luis Suarez scored the only goal of the game last night he is still wasteful in possession, is caught offside constantly and generally runs about reinforcing the belief that you or I could play in the Eredivisie and score 40 a season.
Mexico take second spot from South Africa on goal difference and are probably on their fifth underwear change of the day since waking up this morning and realising they have to go and play an Argentina side who had 67% of possession and 16 shots on target against Greece. Best of luck with that, chaps.