France striker Djibril Cisse says his side will be motivated by the desire to silence their critics when they embark upon their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ campaign on 11 June.
The 1998 world champions kick off against Uruguay in Cape Town a week from Friday, after a laborious qualification campaign that saw their popularity with the French public plummet. They have since rejigged their formation, with coach Raymond Domenech introducing a new 4-3-3 shape that saw them record a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in their opening finals warm-up match last week.
France drew 1-1 with Tunisia on Sunday and play their final tune-up game against China on Friday. Cisse says the players are desperate to avoid a repeat of their disastrous 2002 campaign, when, as defending champions, they lost 1-0 to Senegal in their opening match and were knocked out in the group stage.
"No-one is safe from a shock like 2002 - if we arrive with flowers in our gun barrels, we'll be going back quickly," he said at France's training camp. "We know we have lots of work to do, we have great desire and we want to shut the critics up and change people's vision of the France team. That begins by training well. Against China, we need a good performance, some goals, a victory, and after we'll be more confident and better in our minds."
No-one is safe from a shock like 2002 - if we arrive with flowers in our gun barrels, we'll be going back quickly.
France unexpectedly reached the final at the last FIFA World Cup in Germany, where they were beaten on penalties by Italy, and Cisse believes they should aim just as high in South Africa. "For France, (a successful World Cup) is going all the way. The best World Cup is when you win it," said the 28-year-old Panathinaikos forward. "If you ask that question to a smaller team than France, a successful World Cup would be getting to the quarter-finals. But we want to go all the way."
Cisse, a former Auxerre, Liverpool and Marseille player, will be competing in his first World Cup. He was named in France's squad for the 2006 tournament, but badly broke his right leg in the final warm-up game - coincidentally against China - which crushed his dreams of playing at the finals. "It's not a nice souvenir. It's the blink of an eye, it happens," he said.
China captain Zheng Zhi, currently with Scottish side Celtic, was the man whose challenge led to Cisse's injury and the Frenchman said he had made sure Zheng would not be playing in Friday's game. "He won't be there, I found out," said Cisse. "Shame. The two of us could have talked about it."