Sylvain Wiltord has previous when it comes to turning difficult situations around. It was his strike four minutes into added time that salvaged French hopes and denied Italy glory in the UEFA EURO 2000 final, allowing David Trezeguet to then seal victory for Les Bleus with a golden goal.
Having spent much of the last month around the current France side in his capacity as a television pundit, Wiltord has been better placed than most to analyse their downward spiral, just two years on from a similarly disappointing EURO 2008 campaign. Speaking exclusively to FIFA, the striker shared his thoughts on the team's performances in South Africa, their future prospects and the competition in general.
FIFA: Sylvain, how has this FIFA World Cup been for you?Sylvain Wiltord: I went into it as Les Bleus' No1 fan and I'm sad. We kept waiting for some sort of reaction and it never came.
How difficult was that to understand?
It's completely inexplicable and worrying. This team isn't attractive to watch. There's a real lack of desire and understanding between the players. That can't be the fault of the coach alone.
Raymond Domenech's successor will have his work cut out.That's the least you can say. We'll need to start again from basics, but we have a big gap to make up and it'll be complicated. Everyone's got the right to play badly – that's football – but we need to make the supporters happy again and restore their love for the team. This team belongs to everyone, to the whole country.
We need to start again from basics but we have a big gap to make up. We need to make the supporters happy again and restore their love for the team.
What needs to be done in concrete terms?
I think Laurent Blanc has the necessary experience to carry out the rebuilding work. He's a man with integrity and sound values. He'll need to restore order, which will undoubtedly mean putting supposed senior players on the bench sometimes. He proved at Bordeaux that he's an excellent man-manager. I'm not worried.
You were present during France's failed 2002 FIFA World Cup campaign. Do you see similarities with the current situation?
Yes and no. We went into that World Cup with quite a lot of confidence and we saw ourselves going far. This is different because even though the team has great potential, they've been finding things difficult for a long time now. After their catastrophic EURO 2008, they really suffered during the qualifiers to reach South Africa. It was possible to imagine it all ending like this.
What has been your general take on this FIFA World Cup, the first to be held in Africa?
You can really sense that everyone on the continent feels involved. It's pleasing to see so many smiles in the street. The winter weather aspect has been kind of funny, as everyone tends to subconsciously associate international competitions with games played in hot conditions. We Europeans are bit silly. We tell ourselves that in Africa it will be 35 degrees and now we're all freezing (laughs). We should have packed a few jumpers.
What have you made of the football itself?
I know it's such a cliché, but there are no small teams any more. We've already witnessed quite a few surprises and I think there'll be others.
Have you been struck by any teams in particular, or noticed any exciting, lesser known players?
I've really enjoyed Chile's performances. I can see them reaching at least the last 16 and maybe even the quarter-finals. I'd also put a small bet on Korea Republic, and it's been fun to watch Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira in action for Germany.
Which teams can you see going all the way?
As so often, it will come down to Germany, Spain and Brazil. And Chile, of course.