With just a single point each after their opening two games, France and South Africa meet on Tuesday 22 June 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.
First and foremost, however, there is a question of pride. As tournament hosts, the South African players would love nothing more than to provide their adoring fans with a home victory, while the French are desperate for three points to avoid making a bad situation even worse than it already is.
France-South Africa, Group A, Free State Stadium, Mangaung/Bloemfontein, 16.00 (Local time)
After witnessing their goalless draw with Uruguay and 2-0 loss to Mexico, many observers felt that France looked like a side bereft of ideas. Be it in warm-up matches or in competitive encounters on South African soil, Raymond Domenech has continued to make all manner of tactical changes, all to no avail. In what could be his curtain call as national coach, he may well favour simply revitalising the team rather than making further adjustment’s to Les Bleus’ formation. It would be no surprise then to see certain players more accustomed to sitting on the bench up to this juncture lining up to sing La Marseillaise in Bloemfontein.
In the opposing camp, the South Africans “want to exit the competition head held high,” according to coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. While their performance against Mexico in the opening match was commendable, the same could not be said of their subsequent 3-0 defeat to La Celeste. It is that result which will force the hosts to pounce on any chances that come their way against France, if they are to have any realistic chances of getting out of the group. Reinforcements in attack therefore look likely.
Players to watch
Moneeb Josephs v Hugo Lloris
The pressure is sure to weigh heavily on the shoulders of two players in particular on Tuesday afternoon. The services of Moneeb Josephs and Hugo Lloris, goalkeepers of South Africa and France respectively, will no doubt be called upon numerous times in a match where both teams have nothing to lose. The Bafana Bafana back-up keeper, brought in for Itumeleng Khune following his red card against Uruguay, could be in for a long 90 minutes. As for Lloris, he is in the privileged position of being one of the few French players to have maintained his pre-tournament form. He will need to be at the top of his game to avoid reopening a long-running debate over whether he or Marseille’s Steve Mandanda should be considered France’s undisputed No 1.
2 - The number of times that France have found themselves in the same FIFA World Cup group as Uruguay, Mexico and the host country. In 1966, the French were found wanting against those opponents in the group stage of the competition, failing to qualify for the next round. Does the same fate await them this time around?
What they said
“We’re focusing on the idea of winning the match, first and foremost. Scoring goals and hoping that the other result goes our way will follow on from that. The most important thing is to keep reminding ourselves that there’s still a chance,” Raymond Domenech, France coach.
“I always said that it would all come down to the final match. I don’t think we can hope to defend, wait for a mistake and hit them on the counter-attack. If we are serious about wanting to make it to the next round, we’ll need to take some risks,” Carlos Alberto Parreira, South Africa coach.
Voice of the fans
“Les Bleus haven’t scored a goal since the beginning of the World Cup. I think that it’s therefore unlikely that they’ll now somehow manage to score four. I hope that they can, but I just don’t see it,” - hhugo, FIFA.com user.
Can France qualify for the Round of 16? Will South Africa become the first host nation to be knocked out at the group stage?