Following draws in their opening Group A encounters here at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, France and Mexico are both in need of a positive result in Polokwane on 17 June. What is more, a win for either could prove a hammer blow for the other’s hopes of reaching the Round of 16.
After a lacklustre display in their goalless opener against Uruguay, France coach Raymond Domenech still appears unsure as to his best formation. Favouring a 4-3-3 system in pre-tournament warm-up action, Les Bleus’ supremo opted for a 4-5-1 against La Celeste. Now though, he is expected to push midfielder Yoann Gourcuff closer to central striker Nicolas Anelka and flank the Chelsea man with club-mate Florent Malouda and Franck Ribery. Intriguingly, while France have won just one of their five games in 2010, they have never been beaten by Mexico at senior level, with three of the sides’ six meetings coming at FIFA World Cup finals.
Over in the Mexican camp, the aim is to improve on the wayward finishing shown in the 1-1 draw with South Africa. Clearly unhappy with his charges’ display, El Tri coach Javier Aguirre is set to start Andres Guardado in place of Paul Aguilar, though young tyros Carlos Vela, Efrain Juarez and Giovani dos Santos are expected to keep their starting berths. Mexico are bidding to improve on a record of just one win from eight encounters with European nations at the finals.
Arsenal striker Vela, a star of Mexico’s FIFA U-17 World Cup-winning side in 2005, could end up facing no fewer than four club colleagues in defenders William Gallas, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and midfield man Abou Diaby, who is charged with shielding Les Bleus’ rearguard after the withdrawal of Lassana Diarra from the squad. Both Vela and Diaby put in promising shifts in their respective openers, with the young Mexican looking lively throughout and the marauding Frenchman winning plenty of tackles and carrying a threat going forward.
1 – France have won just one of their last seven group matches at the FIFA World Cup, when they beat Togo 2-0 in their final section encounter on German soil to squeeze through to the Round of 16. What's more, Les Bleus scored just three times in those seven matches.
What they said
“We’re up against a great team and we have to win the game any way we can. This is a vital match and France are strong opponents, both in defence and attack. Even though they’re not playing to their usual high standards, they’ve got players who can turn a game at any moment,” Rafael Marquez, Mexico midfielder.
“We mustn’t let Mexico control possession. They’ve got a very, very good team. When they click into gear, they up the tempo and hold onto the ball for a long time, which can unsettle any side in the world. But my players are really up for this game, I can sense that vibe coming from them,” Raymond Domenech, France coach.
Voice of the fans
“All Mexico need to do is start taking the chances they create and score goals, which are what win games. But I really liked how El Tri played in the first game. I think that we played well and stayed faithful to our style of play, with quick touches and good possession of the ball,” Rafael161319, FIFA.com user.
France’s goalless opener was the third time they started a major finals in this fashion under boss Domenech. At Germany 2006 they recovered to go all the way to the Final, while at UEFA EURO 2008 they fell at the first hurdle. Which path will they follow at South Africa 2010?