France, FIFA World Cup™ finalists in 2006, are on the verge of crashing out of the 2010 event after losing 2-0 to Mexico in Polokwane's Peter Mokaba Stadium. Substitutes Javier Hernandez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco grabbed the goals as El Tri moved to within touching distance of the last 16 with a deserved win over Raymond Domenech’s lacklustre side.
This was a generally well-matched encounter, with little to choose between two talented but inconsistent sides. Mexico, however, just about shaded it, and certainly succeeded in creating the better of the chances throughout. The French defence looked vulnerable faced with the pace and movement of Mexico's youthful attack, and Les Bleus should really have conceded a goal inside eight minutes. All it took was a simple lofted ball over the top from Rafael Marquez to leave them exposed but Carlos Vela, having raced clean through, ballooned his left-foot shot high over the crossbar.
Mexico were showing plenty of ambition, and their willingness to commit men forward was exemplified in left-back Carlos Salcido, who twice went close midway through the half. First, with 18 minutes played, he charged forward from his defensive berth and rifled a low drive just wide of the far post. Then, nine minutes later, Salcido again burst forward, jinked inside Bacary Sagna and, with William Gallas backing off, poked in a right-foot shot that Hugo Lloris could only parry clear.
France were more cautious in their approach, although the largely-subdued Franck Ribery did provide one worthwhile effort with a powerful right-foot shot that flashed across goal. Mexico remained the more threatening, and even the loss of Vela to injury did not disrupt their rhythm, with the Arsenal striker's replacement, Pablo Berrera, heading just wide within a couple of minutes of entering the fray.
The French would have felt fortunate to return to the dressing rooms with the scores level, but they emerged with renewed determination and forced a decent early save from Oscar Perez when Florent Malouda was given time and space to crack in a powerful right-foot shot. With Mexico struggling to replicate their first-half form, Javier Aguirre rang the changes, and it was one of his substitutes, Hernandez, who provided the all-important breakthrough.
Marquez again split the French defence with a simple through-ball, and Hernandez, having sprung the offside trap, coolly sidestepped Lloris before sidefooting into the open net. A resolute French response seemed inevitable, yet it never materialised. Instead, Mexico made sure of all three points when Blanco slotted a textbook penalty to the right of Lloris after Barrera's thrilling run was halted by Eric Abidal's sliding challenge. El Tri now march on to their final fixture against Uruguay knowing that a point will be enough to see them through to the last 16, while France face the hosts knowing that only an unlikely set of results will salvage their South Africa 2010 dreams.