All the matches in the first round in Group A, consisting South Africa, Mexico, France and Uruguay ended in a draw. This makes the second round even more interesting since all the four teams have a point apiece and an equal chance of making it through to the last 16.
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In the last round France looked like anything but the team that managed to reach the two of the last three finals of the World Cup. In their last match against Uruguay, they were dull, unadventurous, unorganised and plain boring. Of course, a lot of the unconvincing display had to do with manager Raymond Domenech’s team selection where he decided to leave out France’s most in-form player Florent Malouda and striker Thierry Henry. So chances of the manager changing the team from the one that played against Uruguay are very high. He will probably replace Yoann Gourcuff or the much disliked Sidney Govou with Florent Malouda and bring in Andre-Pierre Gignac to boost the Les Bleus attack. In defence, William Gallas who is coming back from an injury might sit out this game as a precautionary measure. In midfield, Abou Diably who was a shock selection in the last game along with Franck Ribery will be the players expected to provide the much needed firepower for France.
Even though the French have had a barely satisfactory qaulification run and an equally bad first game, they cannot be counted out just yet. They were late starters even in the 2006 World Cup in Germany but wwent on to beat hot favourites Brazil, to reach the finals.
In their game against Uruguay, France dominated possession but lacked the spark to break down Uruguay’s defense. Mexico play a much more open game than Uruguay and this will work to France’s advantage, giving their strikers space to move. All the Les Bleus need is a win to be almost certain of a spot in the knock-out stages. However, a draw in tonight’s game does not spell utter doom for the French, it does lmakes things very tough for them. Since they will then need a victory against the host nation who will also be looking for a win in their very last group match.
Amazingly, if France win today, despite being quite an unpopular figure in France at the moment, Raymond Domenech will become France’s most successful manager ever with 42 victories.
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Mexico had the daunting task of playing the hosts South Africa in their World Cup opener. They were stunned by Siphiwe Tshabalala’s spectacular goal in the first half but Rafael Marquez’s close-range equaliser in the closing minutes of the game kept Mexico’s World Cup hopes alive. Mexico, under manager Javier Aguirre, realise the importance of this game and will be looking to Salcido, Marquez, Rodriquez and Osorio to keep the French attack at bay while Torrido and Juarez in midfield will hope to pass just the right ball to the talented Giovanni Dos Santos and Carlos Vela up front.
Mexico will be looking to break free of their past record against France in today’s match. The two team have met 6 times previously with 3 of those encounters coming in World Cups. Mexico have only managed to avoid defeat when they drew 1-1 against France in the 1966 World Cup.
“It is for the players to express themselves. No coach can play in their place.” – Raymond Domenech, France manager
“We will play tomorrow like it is our last match. I don’t know how many goals we can score but we will certainly look at testing France’s goalkeeper.” – Javier Aguirre, Mexico manager
Stars to Watch Out For:
France: Florent Malouda, Abou Diaby, Thierry Henry
Mexico: Rafael Marquez, Carlos Vela
Mexico have made it to the knockout stage in their previous five World Cup participations.
Mexico have never won a World Cup match against any of the seven countries that have won the competition (11 defeats and five draws).
Mexico have scored at least one goal in each of their last nine World Cup games against European sides.
Nicolas Anelka has failed to have a shot on target in 384 consecutive minutes for the French side.