With Bafana Bafana providing little for South African football fans to cheer about, here is a look at some international teams that did have something to celebrate:
Defensively frail England should go for broke: Argue about the Danny Rose handball and the charge on Phil Jagielka all you like, but you’ll be dancing on the head of a pin. Bottom line, this England defence just isn’t very good at defending. Jagielka paid the ultimate price for world-class passive faffing; Rose was caught out of position on more occasions than he’ll care to recall; and John Stones’ Beckenbauer tribute act needs a couple more years in the workshop (sometimes, you just have to put your foot through it).
This needn’t matter though. Rose, Stones and Kyle Walker are all impressive contributors to an England attack able to ping the ball around in a very aesthetically pleasing manner. So the solution is obvious. Pile forward! There’s absolutely no way England can win Euro 2016 by trying to keep it tight; attempting to outscore everyone else is surely the only possible option. Turn a shambles into a plus point. If you’re going to fail, it might as well be fun. – Scott Murray
France’s Deschamps is spoilt for choice going forward: The generation of young French attackers Didier Deschamps has at his disposal is so extraordinary, a handful of very talented forwards are going to have to watch the European Championship on television.
The France manager, who has integrated Anthony Martial into the team since the youngster joined Manchester United, had some seriously delicious food for thought when 19-year-old Kingsley Coman came on as Martial’s second half replacement. The Bayern Munich attacker made Russia’s defence look foolish. Audacity was an understatement, and the mix of direct running with a dash of panache left a big impression. He had a sort of assist with the run that earned Dimitri Payet his free kick, then scored a scorcher of a goal himself.
Deschamps also has an assortment of promising youthful attackers to consider who were not even in this squad – new sensation Ousmane Dembélé of Rennes and his clubmate Paul-Georges Ntep, plus the Lyon pair of Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette who are returning to form and fitness. – Amy Lawrence
Suárez’s Uruguay return tastes sweet: If Luis Suárez felt that the reaction to his bite on Giorgio Chiellini was over the top, he may now reflect that redemption tastes sweet. In the 20 months since Fifa banned the Uruguayan for sinking his teeth into Chiellini, the world governing body has been exposed as a hive of scum and villainy while Suárez has confirmed that he is the best striker on the planet.
And, on Saturday, he finally returned to the international stage and, naturally, scored for his country. Uruguay’s 2-2 draw in Brazil was a highly creditable result, bearing in mind that the hosts produced their best attacking performance for a while and the visitors were deprived of their first-choice centre-backs, the superb Atlético Madrid pairing of Diego Godín and José Giménez. Suárez, mind you, should probably have scored more than once, as he also missed a couple of good chances. – Paul Doyle
Gourcuff is building a dazzling Algeria side: Algeria scored 10 goals in their two meetings with Ethiopia in the past week, winning 7-1 at home before drawing 3-3 on a bobbly pitch in Addis Ababa. After opening the scoring in the first match, the Algerian players showed what they thought about persistent rumours that Christian Gourcuff will be replaced as their manager by running to celebrate with him.
The Frenchman has had an unsettled relationship with the Algerian federation and is continually linked with a return to Ligue 1, although he claims he has never considered quitting his current post. And what a pity for him it would be if he did. Because, as his players went on to demonstrate, he is in charge of a team with wonderful attacking talent.
The results against Ethiopia went a long way towards ensuring their participation in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, and came on the back of a 7-0 win over Tanzania in World Cup qualification. The matches with Ethiopia also featured some particularly delicious goals, including a superb volley goal from Saphir Taïder in the first game and a slamming header from Islam Slimani in the second – following a dinky pass from Riyad Mahrez and a gorgeous tee-up from Walid Mesloub.
With players like those – and Yacine Brahimi and Sofiane Feghouli – Algeria have the potential to do damage to any team in the world. In recent months Gourcuff, always a nurturer of flair, has learned to introduce more flexibility into his tactics; it would be a shame for he and this team to go separate ways now. – Paul Doyle © Guardian News & Media 2016