Zinedine Zidane said, "We all know what happened recently in the team and it does not matter to talk more about it. Even if it's very tiny, there's still a chance to go through. So France have to go for it..."
With just a single point each after their opening two games, France and South Africa meet today in the FIFA World Cup equivalent of a last throw of the dice. Although their respective hopes of qualifying for the Round of 16 appear slim, the fact remains that a victory for either Uruguay or Mexico in the other match in Group A would significantly boost the duo's prospects of progressing.
It is safe to say that France are in complete disarray. Following their drab 0-0 draw with Uruguay and 2-0 reverse against Mexico, Les Bleus stand on the precipice of a second group stage exit in the last three World Cups. The surprise run to the final in 2006 seems just a distant memory and this time around, Domenech's side do not possess the Zinedine Zidane get-out-of-jail card.
Yet France are ironically better positioned, at least in terms of the Group A standings, to progress than hosts South Africa. With just one point from their first two matches, Bafana Bafana are battling the odds to maintain the World Cup’s record of the host nation always progressing past the first round.
Les Bleus may be vulnerable, but the South African side is not in a great state coming into the game, and even victory is unlikely to be enough to push Bafana into the last 16. Not only do they need to win (probably handsomely), Carlos Alberto Parreira’s men are reliant on Uruguay or Mexico winning the group’s other game, which is played out concurrently.
Can France qualify for the Round of 16? Can France score lots of goals? Or at least do not bow out without scoring any goals? Will South Africa become the first host nation to be knocked out at the group stage?
I hope Thierry Henry will get to start in his probably last match for France. My prediction: France wins 3-0 and qualifies to the Round of 16 as Group A runner up, with Uruguay defeating Mexico 2-0. Allez Les Bleus!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Posted at 12:20 PM