South Africa may have been demoralised by a 3-0 defeat by Uruguay that left them with one point from a possible six, but they can still reach the Round of 16 according to captain Aaron Mokoena. For that to transpire, Bafana Bafana will have to win their final Group A game against France, who take on Mexico today, and hope the other result in the section goes their way.
"We don't know what will happen when France play Mexico but to be fair, we had an opportunity to control our own fate," Mokoena told FIFA. "That wasn't to be. Now it's a bit tricky because we have to hope things work our way. For us, the most important thing is to forget tonight and prepare for France – what happened here last night should now be history in our minds. We are disappointed, but we have to start thinking about the next game. In football such things happen sometimes. But the belief is still there, there is still hope."
South Africa will certainly have to raise their game. It was quickly apparent against Uruguay that Carlos Alberto Parreira's charges were off-colour amid freezing conditions in Pretoria.
The most important thing is to forget tonight and prepare for France. The belief is still there, there is hope.
Diego Forlan put the South Americans ahead midway through the first half, with a fierce long-range shot that took a deflection off Mokoena and flew over Itumeleng Khune and into the net. Uruguay were in control thereafter, although it took them until the 80th minute to double their lead. Luis Suarez was brought down inside the area by the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, who was duly sent off, and Forlan thumped the resulting penalty into the roof of the net. Alvaro Pereira made it 3-0 in injury time following a clever cross by Suarez.
"Uruguay put us under pressure from the first minute and we couldn't play the way we normally play," explained Mokoena. "They are a clever team. We ended up playing the way they wanted us to play. That's Uruguay – once you fall in their trap, you are gone."
Steven Pienaar attributes South Africa's loss to Forlan’s opener. "That was a crucial blow to us," he said. "I don't think we got over that moment. Until then, I think the guys felt the game could be won, we thought we could still control the game. The results are unfortunate, really unfortunate, but in football these things happen."
South Africa's uphill struggle will be complicated by the fact that Khune and Kagisho Dikgacoi will be suspended for the meeting with France. Mokoena nevertheless reiterated that the hosts can still make the knockout phase. "We have to lift our heads up, we can't give up," the centre-back declared. "It's not over yet."