BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

France are a curious side capable of whipping up the team and nation into a storm as they – to borrow a phrase – march on but with a tendency to simply not perform and when they have a head of steam up to blow up. Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final overtook Beckham against Argentina as the moment of great talent going wrong.

This 2010 vintage of the French have given few indications as to which they will be. They have times of looking poor and disorganised but they have talented players. Few would think they could win the World Cup but they lost the last one on penalties and never looked like amounting to a hill of beans in Germany.

Being full of beans is the Mexican way with a strike force of eager runners and a habit of playing pretty football. The Mexicans are more pleasing on the eye than France and more effective early on with Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela both being able to get around the back of a square French defence and Vela having a glorious chance to beat Hugo Lloris – Rafael Márquez’s ball from defence to attack being a sweet pass – which is blasted wide.

The French are disjointed. The three attacking midfielder of Franck Ribéry, Sidney Govou and Florent Malouda each ploughs their own furrow with Abou Diaby in the midfield breaking up play but having few options when moving the ball on. Nicolas Anelka continues up front alone unattractively.

Vela’s World Cup seems to be over as he limps away from the field having pulled his hamstring but replacement Pablo Barrera is equally willing. As a team the Mexicans seem to lack a quality centre forward to finish off the good approach work and Guillermo Franco is not the exception. Franco leads a Mexican break but Jérémy Toulalan cynically brings him down as the Central Americans four faced two French.

It summed the French up. They hang on grimly to what they have in any way they can perhaps on the verge of being exposed. Perhaps that is in the mind of Florent Malouda who starts the second half whacking the ball hard against a prone Efraín Juárez and then taking a tumble to get Héctor Moreno booked. Something tells you it is make or break for this French time in the next forty five minutes.

Mexico see Óscar Pérez push a Malouda shot over the bar as they ready young, great hope Javier Hernández
who they will be the striker lack of which holds them back. Quickly Diaby welcomes him to the game with a heavy challenge in midfield. That will be continued when Diaby’s Arsenal play Manchester United who have just signed Hernández – next season no doubt.

Cuauhtémoc Blanco is brought on. The faith of a nation sits on his broad shoulders.

It is Hernández who scores breaking free of the French defence which is glued into position with a darting run that could not have been timed better. The young Mexican latches on to another superb back to front pass by Márquez and is left with only Lloris to skip around. He puts the ball into the goal with glee and runs to the support screaming, ecstatic.

Márquez is one of twelve Barcelona players at the World Cup – few will play better – including Messi.

The French have a five minutes of angry reply but that dissolves and there seems to be no shred of believe left in Le Blues. The Mexicans are trying to remain calm but as a team they know best how to defend in attack, ho to keep and hold the ball which they try to do with dos Santos dragging an inviting ball across goal as they search for a second.

There is reason to score more if they can with Uruguay on plus three and Mexico plus one in the group. A draw in the meet up between the two would see Uruguay top and Mexico on course to play Group B’s winners who – we assume – would be Argentina. That is motivation for that tie to be anything other than a soft draw especially with manager Javier Aguirre wanting at least a quarter final place.

Barrera has the mind to get more racing to the box and taking it past Patrice Evra as if he were not there before being pulled down by Éric Abidal. Blanco steps up and scores the penalty. To win is impressive, to win by three is the aim now. As Blanco celebrates Evra trudges back to the centre circle. It turns out to be the end of the scoring for the evening.

The captain of France was called the best left back in the world by some. At the moment he seems anything but and France are a beaten team. Perhaps the recalling of Zidane for the last World Cup stunted this side from developing – sixteen of the squad have never played a World Cup match – but the feeling watching French is that the glory of 1998 has not been built upon and the lean times have followed the greatest triumph as surely as twelve years are 1978 England had missed out on two World Cups. The similarities are probably one of the reasons for the antipathy between the two nations.

The antipathy between France and Ireland is obvious and as Thierry Henry warms up behind the goal avoiding the manager Raymond Domenech he must wonder why he permanently blackened his reputation for this.


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