South Africa missed out on qualifying for the
second round of the World Cup finals for the
first time in their history in agonising fashion
after losing 3-2 to Spain in their final group
They finished the group phase with four
points, five behind the Spanish and level
with Paraguay, who beat Slovenia 3-1 in
their final match, grabbing their crucial third
six minutes from time to move above the
South Africans on goals scored.
South Africa twice came from behind to equalise in an open, roller-coaster match against
Spain, who had already secured their place in the last 16 where they will meet Ireland.
But they finally succumbed to a 56th minute winner from striker Raul,
his second of the night.
It was a cruel blow for South Africa, who failed to win a match at their
first appearance in the World Cup in France four years ago.
They got off to the worst possible start in Taejon when their
goalkeeper Andre Arendse gifted Spain a goal in the fourth minute with
a dreadful blunder.
Arendse, surprisingly recalled to the first team recently, came to the edge of his box to
collect a harmless, over-hit through ball from Gaizka Mendieta but fumbled it badly.
Raul nipped in, stole the ball and walked it into the empty net.
The South Africans equalised in the 31st minute through former Spain-based forward
Striker Siyabonga Nomvethe nodded down a looping cross from the right and McCarthy
beat goalkeeper Iker Casillas from close range with an acrobatic volley.
But on the stroke of halftime, Mendieta restored Spain's advantage with a curling right
foot free kick from 20 metres which left the badly-positioned Arendse glued to his line.
Eight minutes into the second half South Africa equalised for the second time.
Spanish defender Enrique Romero tried to clear a corner from the South African right but
the ball skimmed off the top of his head and span to the back post, where South Africa's
captain Lucas Radebe was on hand to head home.
Three minutes later, however, Spain were back in front when Raul ghosted around the
back of Radabe to meet a Joaquin cross with a firm header for his second goal of the
South Africa, perhaps conscious of Paraguay's second half comeback, tried to haul
themselves back into the match for the third time, but Nelson Cuevas's goal six minutes
from time ended their dreams of a place in the last 16.