When the South Africa team broke the hearts of the host nation, losing 3-0 to Uruguay to leave their future in the World Cup out of their own hands, they became one of five African sides to fail to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament.
The record for African nations has been depressing with only Ghana making it through to the round of 16 after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Serbia on the opening Sunday of the competition.
Ever since Algeria impressed in the 1970 World Cup, narrowly losing to West Germany and drawing with Bulgaria, the footballing world has been waiting with baited breath for a team from that continent to take the great tournament by storm.
Progress was slow but sure, with Tunisia beating Mexico in 1978, Cameroon drawing all three group matches in 1982 while, at the same event, Algeria beat giants West Germany 2-1 and Chile 3-2, missing out on the quarter-finals only after the Germans and Austria played out a pre-planned match that Austria lost by the only margin that sent both nations through: 1-0.
The improvements were clear by 1986, when Morocco became the first African nation to qualify from the group stage before losing 1-0 to West Germany. Four years later the Roger Milla-inspired Cameroon team lost their quarter-final with England only after a late comeback from the European side.
Twenty years on, that performance remains the highlight for African teams in the World Cup. As this tournament is showing, there has also been a change of approach from the African nations, away from the free-flowing, energetic brand of football and towards an organised, defensive European style.
It is no coincidence that four of the six African teams in the 2010 World Cup have European managers, or that the overwhelming majority of players in those sides compete in European football leagues.
Yet, as Ivory Coast's stalemate with Portugal best showed, the teams are struggling to produce match-winning quality as they are moulded into a restricted, orthodox style which has resulted in some of the worst games the tournament has seen.
There has also been criticism of the European coaches' use of the African players, with many clearly playing out of position to fit a pre-planned formation. Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o was anonymous in their defeat to Japan after being moved to the right wing, while Ivory Coast midfielder Didier Zokora could do nothing to influence the game in his new role at centre-half.
African football associations argue that they need European managers as there are none experienced enough within their own countries, but performances in this World Cup suggest they could do no worse than to offer some of their own coaches an opportunity to develop the national teams in a continent with enormous depth in talent.