PARIS -- French fans in Paris groaned and booed their own team Tuesday -- and even cheered for South Africa -- as they watched France's last World Cup loss, a final humiliation after the squad's public infighting left the nation aghast.
Thousands of people, some wearing or waving French flags, showed up to watch the match broadcast on a screen across from the Eiffel Tower. But hopes lost ground as South Africa began scoring, and the bitterness was palpable by the game's end.
France lost 2-1 and left the tournament, while Uruguay and Mexico advanced from Group A.
"I'm sickened, disgusted," said Alain Le Prince, dressed in a team jersey, his cheeks painted with the colors of the French flag -- and among those who said he cheered for South Africa. "Everyone is laughing at us."
The crowd cheered loudly when France's Florent Malouda scored the team's only goal of the tournament. But people had also cheered when France's Yoann Gourcuff was shown a red card and expelled, and there was loud applause mixed with gasps each time South Africa scored.
"Lots of people are for South Africa now," said Angelique Jurquit, 23, a radio journalist. "The French are disgusted with the results of their team, so this is a bit to make fun of France now."
"It's funny. France is worthless," said Victor Malamoud, a 17-year-old Parisian, explaining his cheers for South Africa. Like others, he said he had come to "see the match, watch Les Bleus and hope."
Trouble started for Les Bleus (the Blues) when Nicolas Anelka crudely insulted coach Raymond Domenech and was expelled from the French squad Saturday. The players protested his expulsion by refusing to train Sunday.
Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot, in South Africa until the end of the match on orders from President Nicolas Sarkozy, said Monday night that she spoke with the team and told them they had "tarnished France." She also said they cried.
Numerous fans watching the game said they regretted the image the national team gave France but came to cheer them on.
"That's what hurts as a supporter, the image we give," said 27-year-old Fabien Lejeune. "It's just a sport, but all the cameras of the world are on us. They send out the image and it's not good."
Before the crucial match with South Africa, newspapers implored the team to rise to the occasion: "A Bit of Dignity" read the headline on the daily Le Parisien. "Respect Your Supporters" read France Soir.
Even the famous head butt by Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup final, which damaged his image as a role model, seemed to pale amid the current drama. The captain of the 1998 World Cup champions was as incredulous, and "saddened," as the rest of France.
"They're being spat upon. Maybe they deserve it," Zidane told a news conference Monday in Johannesburg.
A saleswoman at the largest Paris store of the major sports chain Decathlon said sales of France team T-shirts had fallen off to a trickle since the drama began. Sales were "continuous" until mid-June with 113 sold between June 11-18, said Christelle Couleuvre. Since Saturday, when the team refused to train, they are selling "almost nothing or very little" -- 19, she said.
Coach Domenech is a top target of fans who feel betrayed. Facebook pages like "Goodbye Party for Domenech" were popping up. That one had several hundred thousand people so far saying they would attend. Location: "all over France."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press