Les Bleus were appalling in a game that they dare not lose to keep their destiny in their own hands but it was not to be. They lacked a cutting edge once again as Mexico’s prowess and flair conquered the 1998 winners.
Coach Raymond Domenech’s demise in the last four years has been nothing short of catastrophic. Despite leading them to the final four years ago he is very much one of the most unpopular figures in France with his baffling tactics and his dependence on astrology for his choice of personnel in his teams. The 58-year old could only look on from the sidelines in disbelief as to what was transpiring in front of him. He almost gave a slight smirk as if to say “what did you expect?”
The squads preparation in this tournament has been compounded by a lack of team spirit which has saw a number of rifts between the players. William Gallas has boycotted the press in an alleged protest against his coach for picking Patrice Evra as captain ahead of him. Florent Malouda is also believed to have exchanged words with Domenech over his team selection last week. They were below average in their opening encounter against Uruguay and they continued that trait once again in Polokwane against a determined and impressive Mexican team.
The World Cup really has come to live the past few days with more teams emphasising their attacking approach. Cautiousness has crippled the quality of football in the tournament so far but Mexico let off their shackles and played some wonderfully neat football. Even their eccentric fans were impressed with the occasional chant of “ole” each and every time a pass was caressed along the turf by their players.
Once again Nicolas Anelka was the lone man upfront for France with Florent Malouda recalled to the side in place of Yoann Gourcuff. As effective as he is for his club Anelka has once again disappointed in the blue shirt. He offered little in the first half but was hardly being supplied with the service from his colleagues either. In what was a pretty even first half in terms of possession Mexico created more chances with Giovani dos Santo’s trickery and flair bamboozling the French. Franck Ribery and Malouda looked bright for France but saw their influence restricted by a stubborn Mexican defence that looked balanced and organised.
Anelka’s lack of involvement in his first FIFA World Cup saw him replaced at half time by Andre Pierre Gignac, but his forty-five minute spell was just as unproductive. Despite some encouraging moments at the beginning of the second half for France they looked out of sorts and even more so at the back with William Gallas and Eric Abidal looking nervy. Abidal’s lack of concentration saw Mexico deliver the first punch on the hour as he played Javier Hernandez onside after a lovely ball over the top from Rafael Marquez froze the majority of those in a blue shirt as they helplessly watched the substitute elegantly round Hugo Lloris before slotting the ball into the net. Scenes of jubilation from the men in green were sparked.
Patrice Evra showed an uncharacteristic trait of laziness with over ten minutes left to play as he let Pablo Barrera skip past him with ease. The French captain made no effort what so ever to retreat towards his man as Eric Abidal then brought him down in the box conceding a penalty. If France had any hopes of retrieving something from the game they were all but vanquished as veteran Blanco coolly dispatched the spot-kick with a straight run up. It was turning out to be one of the proudest nights in Mexican football history.
Domenech brought on Mathieu Valbuena in an attempt to salvage something but it was to no avail. The staggering thing was that the coach did not even use his third and final substitution. He leaned against the dugout looking like the loneliest man on the planet with his bewildered expression. Thierry Henry and Djibril Cisse warmed up along the sideline as the events were drawing to a close. It is staggering that Domenech did not bring on a man who has been in scintillating form for his club in Greece, nor did he seek the aura of Thierry Henry who still has that sparkle where a piece of magic was needed. As the two warmed up they too look baffled as to what was transpiring.
As the final whistle blew and the Mexicans embraced one another in jubilation whilst the French players trotted off the field in despair. They seemed to succumb to their demise during the game after Hernandez put ‘El Tri’ in front. The sheer lack of team spirit in the French camp is frightening and they ultimately paid for it. With all the star talent at his disposal Domenech has failed to construct a side that is capable of making it through to the last sixteen.
As it stands in Group A France now need to beat the hosts South Africa if they envisage any hope of making it through to the knockout phase and pray that there is a definitive winner in the Uruguay and Mexico tie. However if the game in the Royal Bafokeng stadium ends up being a draw then it subsequently eliminates Les Bleus and Bafana Bafana.
It is a dire situation for Raymond Domenech whose body language summed it all up. His lack of authority, emotion and passion replicated his team. After the game he told ‘TF1’ that he was “lost for words.”He also compounded any belief the French may have by saying that the team now needs a “miracle” if they are to advance to the last sixteen, but in truth it seems as if there hasn’t been any belief within the camp for a considerable amount of time. It is a sorry state of affairs for the French fans.