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Bitter end for France, angry fans

PARIS — French fans in Paris groaned and booed their own team Tuesday — and even cheered for South Africa — as they watched France's 2-1 loss, a final humiliation after the squad's public infighting left the nation aghast.

Thousands of people showed up to watch the match broadcast on a screen across from the Eiffel Tower. But hopes lost ground as South Africa began scoring, and the bitterness was palpable by the game's end.

France was eliminated from the tournament, while Uruguay and Mexico advanced from Group A.

"I'm sickened, disgusted," fan Alain Le Prince said. "Everyone is laughing at us."

The crowd cheered loudly when France's Florent Malouda scored the team's only goal of the tournament. But people had cheered when France's Yoann Gourcuff was shown a red card and expelled, and there was loud applause mixed with gasps each time South Africa scored.

"Lots of people are for South Africa now," said Angelique Jurquit, a radio journalist. "The French are disgusted with the results of their team, so this is a bit to make fun of France now."

Trouble started for the Blues when Nicolas Anelka crudely insulted coach Raymond Domenech and was tossed from the French squad Saturday. The players protested his expulsion by refusing to train Sunday.

Sports minister Roselyne Bachelot, in South Africa until the end of the match on orders from President Nicolas Sarkozy, said Monday night that she spoke with the team and told them they had "tarnished France." She said the players "applauded me and they were crying" after her speech.

Many fans watching the game said they regretted the image the national team gave France but came to cheer them on.

"That's what hurts as a supporter, the image we give," Fabien Lejeune said. "It's just a sport, but all the cameras of the world are on us. They send out the image, and it's not good."

South Africans proud: Their beloved Bafana Bafana didn't advance, yet South African fans greeted the 2-1 win over France with pride and celebration.

Across South Africa, multiracial crowds packed into fan parks to follow the Group A match. Many fans were wearing the yellow Bafana Bafana jerseys, brandishing South African flags and blowing vuvuzelas.

"They played with pride, passion, skill and commitment, and they left everything they possibly had out on that pitch," World Cup organizing committee chief Danny Jordaan said. "They go out with their heads held very high."

Kaka taking care: Even Kaka's 70-year-old grandmother, Vera, had harsh words for the referee who gave him a red card in Brazil's 3-1 win over the Ivory Coast on Sunday. "I can't repeat here what she said about the referee," Kaka said. But the star midfielder pledged to be more careful because of the "severe" refereeing. Kaka, ejected after receiving a contentious second yellow card in the 88th minute, can't play Friday against Portugal in a Group G match.

We don't whine: Australia captain Lucas Neill denied accusations his team has been whining, despite complaints over two red cards, pressure from the media and the state of its training pitch. Australia's final group game is today against Serbia.

Round of 16

Two games have been set for the second round:

• Uruguay (Group A winner) vs. South Korea (Group B runnerup), 10 a.m. Saturday, ESPN

• Argentina (Group B winner) vs. Mexico (Group A runnerup), 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 28

Bitter end for France, angry fans 06/22/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 8:46pm]
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