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WORLD CUP DAILY REPORT

Ousted South Africa Plays Blame Game

Group C: Exit comes with 2-2 tie against Saudi Arabia and amid questions of whether the coach or team quit first.

June 25, 1998|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARIS — Who quit on whom first?

Was it South Africa's soccer team, the once-proud Bafana Bafana, that closed its World Cup on Wednesday with a 2-2 tie against winless Saudi Arabia, causing Coach Philippe Troussier to accuse his players of going through the motions?

Or was it Troussier, who effectively resigned the day before when he told reporters he was out of South Africa at the end of the World Cup?

"The way I see my job doesn't correspond to what is going on in the South African squad," Troussier said on the eve of South Africa's Group C finale in Bordeaux. "I wasn't hired to run a holiday camp."

Troussier, notoriously hard to please even in the best of times, was particularly disgruntled about two players, Brendan Augustine and Naughty Mokoena, missing a Sunday practice session after partying into the early-morning hours the day before.

Troussier promptly sent both players home, complaining that only five members of the 22-man South Africa squad were taking this World Cup seriously.

"The rest are tourists," he said.

That was when the much-traveled Troussier, who previously coached the national sides of Nigeria and Burkina Faso, announced he was headed elsewhere after the World Cup.

"I already know where I'm headed--either an English club or an African national team," he said.

Wednesday's performance against Saudi Arabia did nothing to dissuade Troussier. With South Africa needing at least a two-goal victory--along with a two-goal defeat of Denmark by France--to qualify for the second round, the Bafana Bafana squandered an early 1-0 lead by yielding two penalty kicks, salvaging a tie only when Shaun Bartlett converted the game's third penalty kick in extra time.

Troussier's final media briefing as South Africa coach was a bitter one. He blasted his players for not playing as a unit, for not playing with enough desire, likening their effort to that most often exhibited in a meaningless "friendly" match.

"I thought that today's match was the most important for us, really the most important," he said. "But not in one single case was there any sense of the players playing as a team."

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