Steven Pienaar described South Africa's 2-1 victory over France as "probably the biggest in the country's history" as he reflected with pride at how his team had galvanised the Rainbow Nation. South Africa became the first hosts to be eliminated in the first round, losing out on goal difference to Mexico, but unlike France they bowed out with honour.
"People can never say we didn't do our best but through football we have brought the whole nation together," Pienaar said. "We have shown that we are one country and that's all we need to say. France reached the last World Cup final and all their players play for big clubs so we have to be proud of beating a team of their standing."
Carlos Alberto Parreira, the South Africa manager, said that President Jacob Zuma had "come into the dressing room afterwards to say how proud he was of the victory". Parreira added: "Everyone knows that we had one of the toughest groups and my main feeling is pride."
France's campaign has been marked by questions about the manager Raymond Domenech and, who dropped the captain Patrice Evra after serious player unrest. In addition to the raft of negative headlines, it has yielded only one point and one goal and Domenech refused to shake Parreira's hand after yesterday's match. The players have been booked to fly home tomorrow evening in economy class and the midfielder Abou Diaby was asked if he considered this an insult. "I think in the next few days, something will be said," he replied. "Now is not the right moment to speak about these things."
Domenech dropped the captain Patrice Evra, who led the players' walk-out from training on Sunday in support of Nicolas Anelka, who was expelled from the squad, and the manager said that the defender Eric Abidal had ruled himself out of contention. "Abidal was the only player who came to see me to tell me, ëI'm empty and I'd rather not play."