It’s redemption time on Tuesday for group A teams, France and South Africa.
While pre-tournament predictions did not expect much from South Africa, the weakest of the African teams who are playing by virtue of being the hosts, France are one of the eight glamour teams, past champions and permanent contenders, regardless of the controversy that surrounded their qualification.
In the time since the World Cup began, South Africa have enhanced their reputation, and France dented theirs.
The best case scenario for France would be a big win in this match, hoping that Mexico and Uruguay have a clear winner in their match. That would see the loser on par with France on points, and goal differences would be the decider. This is not implausible.
However, France appear to be a team in crisis. Striker Anelka hs been sent home after an altercation with coach Domenech, in the Mexico match that France lost 2-0. Thereafter, the team have failed to turn up for their training session. It would be a tragedy if France put less than their best collective foot forward in this last group A match, especially, if it’s for other than footballing reasons.
In the Mexico match, Dos Santos out ran the French defence. Mexico’s Carlos Salcido was unchecked, and had a free run down the left flank, throughout the game. With Anelka’s second half replacement Andre Pierre Gignac fairly innocuous in his tenure, and Henry missing the game, altogether, a goal by France appeared unlikely.
South Africa were outclassed by Uruguay. The loss could have been worse, but for good performances by Aaron Mokoena who kept Edinson Cavani in check. Striker Katlego Mphela failed to impress, for want of support. Things hit rock bottom when goalie Khune fouled Luis Suarez and was sent off, resulting in a penalty for Uruguay.
For France Franck Ribery has played below potential barring a brief spell in the first half against Mexico.
For Uruguay, Steven Pienaar was considered capable of raising the team above the ordinary: Against Uruguay, he was kept in check by Perez.
In light of the failures of Mathieu Valbuena, Gignac and Sidney Govou, Henry might get to play, at last. Alou Diarra, in place of Toulalan, and Yoann Gourcuff might also make the first eleven.
South Africa’s manager Alberto Parreira may stick to the same team, barring red-carded goalie Khune, given his lack of options. He might opt for 2 strikers in Pienaar and Kagisho Dikgacoi. Mokoena should continue his good work in defence, and Joseph is likely to replace Khune.
The World will celebrate France if they can put their team woes behind them and play with the flair we have come to expect. That will also help inflate the score and boost their chances of making the cut, while redeeming their reputation. My gut feeling is that this won’t happen. Can France prove me wrong?