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South Africa's World Cup Fairytale Implodes

Published on Saturday 19th June 2010 South Africa's World Cup Fairytale Implodes

Six years in the preparing and making and six days in the crumbling. South Africa’s World Cup fairytale imploded in dramatic fashion at the hands, or rather silky feet, of a Uruguay team on Wednesday, who produced the perfect tactical plan to nullify the home team’s threat.

They went one better, thoroughly outplaying the hosts with their superior pace, fighting spirit and probing play. It left Bafana Bafana again looking like bewildered rabbits staring into an oncoming car’s headlights.

The 3-0 defeat means South Africa now face the near impossible task of having to beat 1998 World Cup winners France in Bloemfontein next Tuesday to stand any chance of progressing to the knockout stage. Even that might not be enough, depending on the results of the two remaining Mexican matches.

Uruguay did have a few lucky breaks, like a dipping effort in the first half from Diego Forlan that benefited from a slight defection, and a harsh-looking second half penalty.

But there was no detracting from their overall superiority as South Africa again wilted in the glare of the World Cup spotlight.

There was never any rhythm to the home team’s play, a depressing note for the locals given the high expectations for the match.

South Africa failed to penetrate a tough-tacking defence, nor could they dominate the middle. They had their wings cut off by a clever tactical switch by Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez.

But missing the most was dogged fighting spirit. It was plainly apparent after the first goal, midway through the first half, that the Bafana Bafana appetite was on the wane.

Chances were restricted to speculative shots from the edge of the opponents’ penalty area while the South African defence always had a panicked feel about its play.

A last chance for redemption against France is still mathematically possible but there will be few believing it real. The inexperience of the home-based South Africans showed, notably in getting first to the ball and in the final pass.

A chilly night at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld effectively ended the warm glow that the South Africa public has placed across the nation's World Cup campaign.

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