African teams found wanting
It was not meant to happen like this. Africa had a record six teams in the tournament but one by one they have tumbled out, failing to live up to expectations, dashing the hopes of an entire Continent.
The vuvezelas may still be screeching and organisers saying all the right things about the show going on but no-one can ignore the hugely disappointing performances of Africa's teams at Africa's World Cup.
South Africa, the first host nation to miss out on the knockout stage. Cameroon's Indomitable Lions tamed. Nigeria's Super Eagles having their wings clipped. Algeria never quite up to the mark. The Ivory Coast, with their array of European-based stars, on their way home too barring an unlikely avalanche of goals.
A string of first round flops by African teams on home turf could not have made a greater mockery of Sepp Blatter's insistence that this was Africa's time. Or, for that matter, of Pele's famous comment that an African team would win the World Cup by 2010.
Only Ghana are flying the flag going into the second round and even they just sneaked through. So what now? Having effectively given Africa an extra place at this World Cup, FIFA is unlikely to give the continent six places for Brazil in four years' time.
Many believe the African teams have only themselves to blame. Questions will be asked of Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen's selections. And for all the tactical organisation coach Lars Lagerback brought to the Nigerian side and the team spirit he has supposedly fostered, the Super Eagles suffered from a distinct lack of cutting edge and creativity.
The Group of Death may have been unkind to the Ivory Coast but for all Sven Goran Eriksson's assertions about this being the happiest squad he has ever worked with, three weeks is a pitifully short period to create momentum. And despite restoring pride with their 2-1 win over 10-man France, Bafana Bafana had all their shortcomings ruthlessly exposed by Uruguay.
Overrated and overpaid was how one South African newspaper described Carlos Alberto Parreira whose side was lambasted by former Liverpool keeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, born in Durban and raised in Zimbabwe. Parreira, he said, picked a side that "couldn't string two passes together. The last 10 years Bafana has been going backwards".
Cameroon icon Roger Milla, whose legendary corner flag dance routines became a hallmark of the 1990 World Cup, says the problems are more deep-rooted. The Cameroon camp was rocked by reports of splits, not least between Samuel Eto'o and coach Le Guen.
"There has been a lack of discipline and organisation among the African nations," says Milla, now 58. "I knew, for instance, that Cameroon would have problems. The coach simply didn't do his job properly. He simply didn't pick the right players. If you are a serious manager, you should be more rigorous and not be dictated to by the players."
Milla denies African sides got ahead of themselves by thinking they could just turn up but says there has been too much interference by self-interested parties. "There are mistakes that need to be corrected, like not having a whole federation making decisions," says Milla. "You can't have 90 people making decisions on 23 players."
Bora Milutonivic, who has taken no fewer than five countries to the World Cup finals and is well-placed to debate the issue, is another who believes a change of attitude is needed.
"At club level everything is controlled for the players," he says. "They don't have to think, they are in a disciplined system. But then, when they come back home, they cannot adapt and take responsibility properly for themselves."
Bora, who took Costa Rica (in 1990) and Nigeria (in 1998) to the second round (as well as Mexico in 1986 and the US in 1994, albeit when both were hosts) says getting inside players' heads is paramount when European coaches are employed by African nations.
"The first thing I did was get to know my players. If I have a player from Ajax then I know for sure that, yes, he can play; he does understand. But the others I have to know where they come from - I visit their family, their home, where they grew up, know their culture and their religion.
"Also, you need more than a few days or weeks; you need several months. It's not only going to watch your players with European clubs. You have to know where they come from, to know who they are."
Milla agrees. Even when there were no rifts and it appeared teams were harmonious units, cultural differences remained at the heart of the problem, he says: "Every team has its way of doing things and that's what I'm concerned about. Maybe foreign coaches need to understand the country better.
"Whoever it is can not just come in at the last minute. You simply can't do it in a few weeks. I would say one to two years is the minimum. We must all learn from this."