World Cup 2010: What we've learned today
There is still time for this unpromising early momentum to be reversed but it pains all sentient neutrals to imagine South Africa's energy and their sacrifices off the pitch coming to nought.sports Updated: Jun 18, 2010 12:09 IST
The South African hosts have all but been eliminated, leaving Africa anxious for at least one of its five other teams to avoid a wipe-out. This World Cup needs a strong African contender to extend the sense of triumph beyond the continent's bare staging of the tournament for the first time. To think the six nations who call Africa home would be satisfied with an early wipe-out on the field of play so long as the event itself can be called a success would be to misunderstand the ambitions of football in these parts.
South Africa are already in dire peril of becoming the first host country to fail to progress beyond the group stage. At Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria last night, Bafana Bafana fell victim to a striker who is developing a formidable reputation for crushing dreams. Diego Forln, scorer of two of Uruguay's goals in the 3-0 win, was Fulham's tormentor in the Europa League final in Hamburg.
This far weightier blow against romance left South Africans crushed and embarrassed. As they left bars and restaurants they were already haunted by a vision of how this World Cup might feel if they no longer have Carlos Alberto Perreira's side to cheer. We are in uncharted territory here. Never has a World Cup host had to abandon its prime allegiance and find another so quickly. South Africa must beat France in Bloemfontein to have any hope of advancing.
The mantra has been that all Africans would support whichever team was left when theirs went out, but the portents are not good. Nigeria have already lost to Argentina and Greece, Algeria went down to Slovenia, Cameroon were beaten by Japan and the Ivory Coast began with a 0-0 draw with Portugal. Ghana's 1-0 victory over Serbia remains the continent's only flourish.
There is still time for this unpromising early momentum to be reversed but it pains all sentient neutrals to imagine South Africa's energy and their sacrifices off the pitch coming to nought. Most obviously Africa cannot be a nursery for the rich European clubs without the countries that supply that talent progressing at national level. This World Cup was meant to strengthen the African game. Otherwise it is just a circus passing through.