On Tuesday afternoon, he stopped an army.
The French winger, a key player in the squad's revolt against coach Raymond Domenech, scored a 70th minute goal that effectively ended South Africa's World Cup dreams. To advance into the Round of 16, the host nation needed a win combined with Uruguay loss and a plus-five goal differential on the day.
Until midway through the second half in Bloemfontein, it looked as though that unlikely scenario might come to pass in this unusual World Cup. Bongani Khumalo started Bafana Bafana off early, slamming Siphiwe Tshabalala's corner kick into the back of Hugo Lloris' net in the 20th minute and causing his paused nation to explode.
Yoann Gourcuff's red card six minutes later and Katlego Mphela's goal before halftime gave real credence to the faith shown by Bafana supporters since before kickoff. The striker bungled the ball over the line, sending employees at a local supermarket into a rapture shared across the entire country. There would be no more work today; Bafana was on the move.
With 45 minutes to go, the home side stood just two goals from qualifying for the second round. (In Rustenburg, Luis Suarez tallied two minutes before the half to give Uruguay a one-nil lead.) France, continuing their descent into chaos, appeared ready to concede to a South African side spurred on by a nation of 60 million. A peak into Carlos Alberto Parreira's locker room would have revealed players brimming with confidence.
Then mighty Malouda struck. It began as an inauspicious counterattack and ended with South Africa crushed. Franck Ribery stormed down the right side of the pitch, attempting to make something of his poor tournament. His cross found the Chelsea midfielder's foot and he didn't miss from just outside the six-yard box.
Malouda finished Bafana Bafana, but the host nation helped dig their own grave with misses after the break. Mphela, the most dangerous striker all night, could have been a hero. Instead, Lloris stoned him in the 58th minute. South Africa ran hard and found opportunities, but failed to capitalize. France tallied, and Bafana went home.
With their boys gone, the country's focus turns to making sure the second half of the tournament goes off as well as the first. Officials estimate 432,000 fans have traveled to South Africa for the World Cup, much higher than the 350,000 predicted before it began. (FIFA originally forecast 450,000 visitors but revised that number down because of security concerns and cost.) An event that was supposed to be riddled with theft, violence, and logistical disasters hasn't been. Minor problems pop up here and there, but so far South Africa's World Cup is a success.
Despite failing to qualify for the next round, Bafana Bafana had their moments. The world will replay Tshabalala's goal against Mexico for decades, while Tuesday's win -- the country's first ever in World Cup play -- is one for the archives.
The night marked the end of Bafana, but it is only the beginning for South Africa.