France left-back Patrice Evra has turned on his side's critics and asserted that he and his team-mates were travelling to the FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa to win it.
France's popularity has taken a battering in recent months, after they limped through their qualifying campaign and only secured their place at the tournament after a controversial Thierry Henry handball helped them overcome the Republic of Ireland in the European zone play-offs.
Coach Raymond Domenech is deeply unpopular with French fans and a survey in French sport daily L'Equipe on Wednesday revealed that only three per cent of international football fans think France can win the FIFA World Cup. Evra, though, insists his side are focused on the ultimate prize.
"The French public don't believe in us anymore but the real supporters believe in us," said the 29-year-old Manchester United defender. "People at my club don't tease me. If anything, they say: 'How come you (France) don't beat everyone?'
The most important thing is to believe in ourselves and not the people who say we're rubbish... This team is going to the World Cup to win.
"All the teams respect us. We're not going there on safari. Public opinion says that we're going on safari, that we're not the favourites. That could stir our pride. We're really hungry. We're doing this World Cup, not for the people who criticise us, but for our loved ones, for ourselves.
"The most important thing is to believe in ourselves and not the people who say we're rubbish. Nobody wants to play against France. This team is going to the World Cup to win."
France captain Thierry Henry will go into the tournament short of form after a stop-start season with Spanish champions Barcelona, but Evra says the country's record goalscorer is not a cause for concern. "A champion remains a champion," said Evra of his team-mate.
"A guy like 'Titi' wants to win the World Cup. He'll be hungry and it would be difficult to do it without him. Against Ireland, he did his job. He was a bit disappointed by the French media and the politicians who talked about replaying the match. In my opinion we should have replayed it on the PlayStation. Just because someone had a difficult season, it doesn't mean they'll have a bad World Cup. Stop talking about the season."
France's players were due to spend Wednesday night at an altitude of 3,000 metres at their pre-FIFA World Cup training camp here in the French Alps, before tackling a glacier on Thursday. Members of the France delegation spent Wednesday morning cycling around the Tignes lake before preparing to head up to mountain-top restaurant Le Panoramic, where they stayed before their 2006 World Cup campaign in Germany.
Domenech's side scaled the 3,650m Grande Motte glacier with ropes and crampons four years ago and the current squad will be able to do the same if weather conditions permit on Thursday morning. "I think that it's cold," quipped Evra when asked what he knew about the glacier. "We've not talked about it yet but when you say 'glacier', it doesn't work for me. It's cold!"
France, champions in 1998, were drawn alongside Mexico, Uruguay and hosts South Africa in Group A and begin their FIFA World Cup campaign against the South Americans in Cape Town on 11 June.