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

“Your time starts now.”

So much of the World Cup is qualifying. Nations qualify for the next stage of qualification – North Korea went through three rounds – and then they end up in four team groups with the aim being to qualify once more.

So after two years of trying – starting today – nations can say that they have gone a distance in the World Cup. Any nation that gets to the last sixteen of the World Cup has performed well and let no one tell you otherwise. 205 teams enter and at the end of the next four days sixteen will be left.

Mexico and Uruguay can both get through should they draw – the are the sixteenth and the seventh ranked sides so perhaps no one should be surprised if it is an even game – but in the event of a draw then Mexico will take the runners up place and the likely game with Argentina.

Fear no one, for you are yourself mighty.

In the event of a loss a win for France or South Africa could put them through although in the case of the host there would have to be multiple goals scored. The French morale says do not rule that out although the Europeans field a much changed line up following the ructions of the week. Djibril Cissé has replaced Nicolas Anelka in the forward line, Thierry Henry’s is on the bench.

Mexico are without the so far excellent Carlos Vela and bring the totem Cuauhtémoc Blanco in to replace him. They start well and attack early showing a desire to win the group but Uruguay are a sharp side and Luis Suárez breaks the Mexican line but puts his shot fro wide wide of the goal, Óscar Pérez, making himself big.

The Mexican early pressure provokes a response by the South Americans who edge the game but when Blanco lofts a ball over to Guillermo Franco the problems with lacking a cutting forward become more obvious. For the want of the type of striker France throw away Mexico would be genuine contenders.

Álvaro Pereira blazed a shot wide at one end before Andrés Guardado hammers a long shot that crashes against the bar and bounces down and out. At the same time Bongani Khumalo is heading in a corner for South Africa who have a lead against the French. The French are quickly have Yoann Gourcuff sent off for an elbow on the brilliantly named MacBeth Sibaya.

Defeat for Mexico or Uruguay would still see them through unless the goal swing to South Africa is more dramatic but such concerns are at the back of minds as Blanco slides a ball into Giovani dos Santos who glides through the Uruguay back line while the Uruguayans are using the ball well but having fewer chances.

South Africa have goals to score. Assuming the worst scenario that could see them level in points – a 1-0 win for Mexico – then they need to beat France 5-0. If Uruguay win then a 4-0 win is needed. Both represent a thrashing of a big football nation by South Africa – although they will not get a better chance.

Blood is shed by Uruguay’s Diego Pérez in pursuit of victory spending time on the sidelines and with him be might bring news that Katlego Mphela had put South Africa 2-0 into the lead. With the Mexicans pressing more perhaps Uruguay would be best advised to start the process of going for the draw but such talk seems outside of the mindset of the game as Suárez darts to the back of the box and is hit by a perfect cross by Edinson Cavani which is headed firmly past Pérez in the Mexican goal.

It is tough on the impressive Mexican side who come out for the secondly half determined to get into parity. An expansive and impressive side – albeit one who defend weakly both in terms of numbers and organisation – they have been glorious to watch in this World Cup. They are a great save by Pérez from a Diego Lugano header from being two down. Elsewhere Katlego Mphela slams a ball agianst the post while Cissé take a long shot which goes over.

Mexico are pinned back now going too hard to equalise and losing track of the basics of ball retention. Javier Hernández comes on for Blanco and within a minute is testing the South American’s back line. Pablo Barrera gets a cross in which is met by Francisco Rodríguez six yards out with the goal at his mercy but the central defender heads wide. That moment could prove to be very telling.

South Africa press but that pressing seems to have taken it out of the legs of the hosts and the French start to enjoy more of the game with Henry on and looking increasingly dangerous. So it proves when Florent Malouda – the first Frenchman to fall out with coach Raymond Domenech – pulls a goal back for the Europeans after a deep run by Franck Ribéry which the winger pushed back into his path taking out the goalkeeper with his pass. South Africa’s task is seemingly insurmountable and Ribéry is probably the only French man who emerges with any credit from a shocking two weeks.

The Mexicans continue to press. The idea of them meeting Argentina will not fill them with fear. Both sides enjoy attacking and pay too little notice to defending. In their first two games Argentina have yet to be attacked in any great numbers and perhaps Mexico are the team to do that but the central striker issue will probably be telling and see their progress halted. Mexico have qualified in second place.

Uruguay go through first and will hope that they have secured an easier second round match. They seem a team who attack well and defend when required. They have limits but could go to the quarter finals if not further.

South Africa are third in the group going out but recording a good victory over France to recall the tournament they have hosted. They are victims of the success of those who wanted to have an African World Cup. They are the first host to be knocked out in the group stages but most host are established footballing nations and the victory is in the progression of the game and the country rather than the football team.

France are bottom are from here they go to a total rebuilding of the management and playing side of the national team. The squad is long in the tooth – they kept the favourites too long – and few younger players have had experience. The management is replaced by by 1998 winner Laurent Blanc who will be given a clean slate to start from without names like Anelka or Henry.

How long Blanc will take in his rebuilding of the Frence side would trouble the nation for sometime. The under 21s suggest that there is not massive amounts in reserve. With South Africa the World Cup bids them goodbye but – one suspect – we shall not see them in 2014.


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