Emotional South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said Tuesday the team had a bright future despite becoming the first host nation to exit in the first round of the FIFA World Cup™.
Willed on by a passionate crowd in Bloemfontein, the Bafana Bafana went into a two-goal lead against 10-man France, raising hopes that they could pull off the near-impossible and qualify for the last 16. But South Africa conceded a second-half goal and despite losing against Uruguay, Group A rivals Mexico edged them out on goal difference.
"We are disappointed that we didn't qualify but I do not consider this a failure," said Parreira, stepping down as coach of South Africa, after the 2-1 win. Parreira said when he had taken over, South Africa were languishing in the world rankings but the team had made huge strides and their performances "showed that the work has paid off" and the team now had an identity.
"My main feeling is pride," he said, adding that the team, not a powerhouse of African football, had beaten a world football power in France. He said his side had lacked the luck they needed, hitting the woodwork when in desperate need of more goals.
Budweiser Man of the Match Katlego Mphela said: "I'm not sad at all. I think we gave our best. We missed a couple of chances but a win is a win, especially against France in the World Cup."
Parreira said he was pleased South African President Jacob Zuma had appeared in the dressing room to thank the players. Zuma told reporters: "As you know we didn't qualify and for that I'm disappointed, I think the team played very well. The boys made us proud today. They ended in a very positive note as a team, and I'm very happy for that.
"We are hosting and that is a big win for the country. South Africa has done Africa well, hosting this Cup in the manner in which we are, so we are very happy," he added. "As we entered this campaign the whole country was united, the entire continent was united, they had made a contribution to unite our nation."
The much-travelled Parreira said he would take a break from football for the rest of the year and would not coach outside Brazil again. "I will always remember this country with very, very good feelings," he said.