Uruguay and Mexico advanced to the second round of the FIFA World Cup after the South Americans defeated El Tri 1-0 Tuesday in South Africa.
South Africa beat France 2-1 in the other Group A game, but the Bafana Bafana victory wasn't enough to see them overtake Mexico for second place. As a result, South Africa becomes the first host nation in the 80-year history of the tournament not to make it out of the group stage.
The main storyline
Uruguay and Mexico controlled their respective fates in Rustenburg, knowing that a draw would be good enough to see both teams advance to the round of 16, regardless of what happened between France and South Africa in Bloemfontein.
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But if anybody was expecting a tame stalemate with the teams simply going through the motions and not taking any chances, they were sadly mistaken. Uruguay and Mexico put on an entertaining display, both sides showing great attacking initiative and invention right from the opening kickoff.
Thankfully, they did not follow the shameful precedent set by Austria and West Germany at the 1982 tournament. Twenty-six years ago, the teams stopped playing after the Germans took an early lead over Austria and knew that if that result held up, they would both progress at the expense of Algeria.
Full credit to Uruguay and Mexico for not breaching the ethics of fair play and sportsmanship, though their motives might not have been entirely altruistic. Lingering in the back of their minds was the knowledge that a victory would likely let them escape a second-round matchup with mighty Argentina.
What this result means
Uruguay wins Group A with seven points ahead of Mexico and South Africa (four points each) and France (one point).
Uruguay will meet the second-place team from Group B in the second round, while Mexico will face the Group B winner. South Africa and France have been eliminated.
The winning goal
With two minutes left in the first half, Diego Forlan broke through the midfield and shifted the ball over to the right flank where Edinson Cavani delivered a gorgeous ball to the far post. Luis Suarez majestically rose through the air and nodded Cavani's inch-perfect cross into the back of the net, completing Uruguay's sweeping move with a flourish.
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Turning point of the game
Suarez's goal lit a fire under Mexico, which came out strong at the start of the second half and began to ask more questions of Uruguay's defence. With the Mexicans in the ascendancy, the South Americans were reeling and fighting to hold onto their slender lead, which led to a tension-filled final 45 minutes.
Man of the match
Suarez was pretty quiet in Uruguay's first two games of the tournament, but the Ajax striker finally broke out with a strong performance for his country.
The Uruguyan perspective
"The important thing is that we qualified in first place. They controlled the ball well and in truth it was quite hard for us." — Forward Diego Forlan
The Mexican perspective
"It leaves a bitter taste. We're all unhappy with this result and with today's performance. We'll have to improve now." — midfielder Rafael Marquez