It was a day of joy and pain in South Africa – joy for Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina and Korea Republic, who all advanced to the last 16, but pain for hosts Bafana Bafana, who bowed out along with three other sides despite a valiant victory over France.
Uruguay claimed first place in Group A after a third successive clean sheet helped secure a 1-0 win over Mexico, who nonetheless pipped South Africa to second place on goal difference. It brought an unwanted piece of history for Carlos Alberto Parreira's men, who became the first hosts to fall in the first round, although at least they went down fighting. Indeed for a short time in Bloemfontein, Bafana Bafana had their fans dreaming, building a 2-0 half-time lead against a France side reduced to ten men by Yoan Gourcuff's dismissal. With Uruguay beating Mexico, suddenly the dream was on, but chances went begging and Florent Malouda's reply ended any hope of securing the swing in goal difference that Bafana required to deny Mexico second place.
There was further disappointment for African football fans with Nigeria's elimination later in the day following a 2-2 draw with Korea Republic who progressed along with Argentina, section winners after beating Greece 2-0 to claim maximum points in Group B and send home Otto Rehhagel's side. Lionel Messi became Argentina's youngest captain at the FIFA World Cup™ at 22 years and 363 days but the night finished with the squad's golden oldie, Martin Palermo, celebrating after he became his country's oldest scorer on the world stage at 36 years and 277 days when netting their second. Next up for La Albiceleste will be Mexico, their opponents at the last-16 stage four years ago, while Uruguay will face the South Koreans.
Goal of the day
Park Chu-Young, Nigeria 1-2 Korea Republic, 49 mins: The South Korean No10 curled a free-kick around the Nigeria wall and past the despairing left arm of Vincent Enyeama to put his side on the path to the last 16 – the first time they have achieved the feat beyond their own shores.
One to remember
Had Katlego Mphela's shot hit the net when he broke through six minutes after the restart, Bafana's momentum might have carried them home but instead it rebounded off a post. Nigeria striker Yakubu Ayegbeni was guilty later in the day of a considerably worse miss, slotting wide of an empty net and so missing the goal that would have sent the Super Eagles through. Football is a game of narrow margins, as Africa's representatives have discovered to their cost.
Quote of the day
"Even though I think at 2-0 we should have killed the game off by scoring a third goal, I'm happy to have seen my players make progress. They've made the whole country proud. The foundations are there and I'm very confident about the future of South African football," South Africa's outgoing coach Parreira pays tribute to his team.
Stat of the day
1 – Just as at UEFA EURO 2008, France ended up bottom of their section with one point and one goal, marking a miserable end to Raymond Domenech's reign and to a campaign that they finished one man short after Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the squad. France's implosion continued an unlikely pattern: each time they have reached a FIFA World Cup final, they have taken their group's wooden spoon four years later. Déjà vu for Les Bleus.