Tag Archives: France

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 12

Winners

The Irish

Although it is somewhat bittersweet. It’s quite something to almost (and I do mean almost) feel sorry for the Irish media sponsored “Ireland’s nemesis” but once the dust had settled, there was something rather depressing about seeing such world class talent go to waste.

While many generous observers believed that Ireland would easily escape Group A, the reality may have been much different. What we can be sure of though, is that Ireland would have given everything they had in the process. That France poured salt on the wound by lying down and dying is the bigger insult. That said, you would hard pressed to find an Irishman who is upset at their failure, and despite my attempt at seeing it from both sides of the coin, I am not one of them.

Argentina

82% possession in the game, a 100% record in the group and a tie they will fancy against Mexico in the next round. Job done.

Diego Maradona

Credit where it’s due. While the group may not have been terribly challenging, Argentina were extraordinarily poor in qualifying. This is where it really counts though and while other fancied nations are self-destructing, Diego is steering the ship comfortably. For now.

Martin Palermo

A lovely and deserved moment for Saint Martin.

Uruguay

In the end deserving winners of a tight group. Finishing at the summit means they will avoid Argentina and take the (potentially) easier route through Greece.

Mexico

Goal difference keeps them in it, but Diego’s men are waiting. A repeat of the excellent 2006 second round clash which went 120 minutes and was won in fine style by one of the goals of the tournament courtesy of Maxi Rodriguez, is welcome stuff.

South Korea

By the skin of their teeth. It’s nice to see a good footballing team progress at the expense of Greece.

South Africa

Although they become the first host nation in history not to see the second round, Bafana Bafana (Whatever will ITV say now?) brought entertainment, pride and team spirit to their games, winning over many new fans in the process. A famous victory against a disgraceful French side will do little to cushion the blow of bowing out at the group stage, but there should be no shame in the South African camp.

Darragh Maloney

In reference to Patrice Evra’s now-infamous “I’ll give the Irish a replay…on my Playstation” quote, the future Bill O’Herlihy remarked; “He’ll have plenty of time to play with his Playstation now.” Sick burn Darragh, sick burn.

Adrian Chiles

Even ITV stuck the boot in as Chiles exclaimed: “As we say goodbye to two more teams from the 2010 World Cup, one of them will be sadly missed; the other, well, in all honesty, won’t be.” Zing.

Losers


France

What goes around comes around and other such clichés. In truth, this team were beaten before a ball was kicked. The message from the French players’ faces and body language was clear; “I want to go home”. Nicolas Anelka couldn’t keep the smile off his face when confronted by reporters and photographers after being sent home in disgrace. His verbal condemnation of the manager likely echoed the thoughts of the majority of the French dressing room.

The story of France’s World Cup campaign is a fascinating one that some of the best Hollywood scribes would fail to better. From the villainous method of their qualification to the mutinous players to an exit laced with apathy and self-contempt, Les Bleus have shown their true colours, making a disgraceful embarrassment of themselves in the process.

This is a broken team and incoming manager Laurent Blanc has the biggest and most challenging task of his life on his hands.

Raymond Domenech

Standing in the centre-circle, arms-folded and staring into space, Domenech looked like a lost man surveying the damage following a lengthy and bloody battle. However, when the soon-to-be-former French manager took up his stance on the halfway line, the game had yet to even kick off.

90 minutes later his team (or rather what was left of them) were out of the World Cup and Domenech cemented his legacy as both a fool and poor loser when he refused to shake the extended hand of South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. While both men had managed their last game in South Africa 2010, the gulf in class between them was shown to the entire world.

Domenech had announced that he would step down after the tournament whatever happened, so there will be no axe to fear, but the mystery remains as to just how he remained in the job for so long. It’s a fitting tribute that he leaves France rooted to the bottom of their group in a World Cup finals for the second time in eight years. Guess it was written in the stars. Au revoir Raymond, please disappear into obscurity.

Greece

Guess Nigeria was a one-off then. More horrible anti-football from the masters. Good riddance.

Nigeria

Worked hard but never really got going.

Yakubu

I would have scored that.

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Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 7

Winners


Irish fans

Yes we are that bitter. And yes, watching France lose and possibly bow out this soon was damn sweet.

Mexico

Took full advantage of France’s apathy to put themselves firmly in the driving seat. A point is all that is required from their game against Uruguay to progress beyond the group stage. With the exception of Germany, the South American teams have played the most attacking and exciting football and Mexico kept up the standard.

Javier Hernández and Cuauhtémoc Blanco

The future and past of Mexican goalscoring talent combined to see off France. The future is bright for  Manchester United’s newest acquisition having now scored eight goals in fourteen appearances for his country while the 37-year-old Blanco added to his legend with a well-taken penalty to seal a famous victory.

Argentina

Repelled a South Korean fightback in style to make it six points from six and should finish the group with the maximum number when they face Greece. Diego Maradona’s men have been impressive without having to go to too much trouble. It’s early days yet and Messi has yet to hit the back of the net but the early signs are good for a team that struggled greatly through the qualifying campaign.

Gonzalo Higuain

A cool, calm and collected hat-trick makes the Real Madrid forward YOUR World Cup top goalscorer.

Greece

Lesson learned. Following the wretched anti-football that led to their demise against South Korea, the 2004 European Champions woke up and took the game to Nigeria. An especially impressive result considering they came from behind to win, scoring their first ever goals in the World Cup finals in the process.

Alexandros Tsorvas

A very lucky boy. Coming out on the winning side should make people forget about his Bruce Grobbelaar-esque goalkeeping that led to Greece conceding the opening goal.

Losers


France

Karma is a bitch. Outclassed and outplayed, the 2006 finalists looked disinterested throughout. Perhaps Raymond Domenech has finally broken his team’s spirit. In any event, France appeared content to let Mexico play and barely put up a fight.

Thierry Henry

And speaking of karma, all the former French captain could do was watch from his designated spot on the bench. Safe home Thierry.

Nigeria

In relative control following an early lead, the Super Eagles were mostly untroubled until one man threw it all away…

Sani Kaita

A moment of utter stupidly from the Nigerian midfielder led to his dismissal and the subsequent Greek revival. It might seem harsh to place the failing of a team on the shoulders of one player, but Kaita’s assault on Vasilis Torosidis cost his team the match and effectively booked their ticket home.

Round One in Review

The first round of group stage fixtures at the 2010 World Cup is complete. Every team has now taken their World Cup bow in South Africa and we’ve already been left with some intriguing permutations for qualification to the last sixteen. World Cup Daily will now take a look back at this mini-milestone stage of the competition.

Group A:

Group A is a bit different by way of having already completed one game of the second round of fixtures. The result was a potentially crippling one for the Bafana Bafana, as they lost to Uruguay 3-0 while also losing their first choice goalkeeper to suspension. France play Mexico tomorrow with the winner of that game taking a massive step towards the next round. Here is the table as it stands.

Group A MP W D L Pts
Uruguay 2 1 1 0 4
Mexico 1 0 1 0 1
France 1 0 1 0 1
South Africa 2 0 1 1 1

The hosts, South Africa, achieved what may yet be their best result in the competition in the tournament’s opening game against Mexico. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s incredible strike will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it. 1998’s winners France stuttered in a 0-0 stalemate against Uruguay. Although they failed to impress against Les Bleus, Uruguay now control Group A courtesy of their victory over Bafana Bafana in Pretoria this evening. Diego Forlan lead the line with conviction and scored two goals, taking him to the top of the goalscoring standings for the tournament.

The outcome of Mexico v France is key to the future of the group. If there is a winner to that game then the hosts will be all but eliminated and the victor should progress to the last sixteen alongside Uruguay. A draw will throw open a range of possibilities and will ensure an exciting climax, with South Africa’s participation in the World Cup still very much alive.

Group B:

The Republic of Korea and Argentina sit loftily atop Group B at the moment courtesy of victories over Greece and Nigeria respectively. The two sides meet tomorrow in the early kickoff at Soccer City.

The Republic of Korea were comfortable victors of Otto Rehhagel’s Greece. The Euro 2004 champions were both lethargic and sloppy and possessed none of the defensive nous that saw them capture the European Championships six years ago. On the other hand, Korea were excellent. Their captain, Park Ji Sung, has excelled in the playmakers role for South Korea for years and demonstrated his immense capabilities in their 2-0 win.

Lionel Messi was at his dazzling best in the Albiceleste’s 1-0 success over Nigeria. The tight scoreline flattered the Super Eagles and Nigeria will need to improve drastically if they are to have a future in the competition. Nigeria will face elimination from the competition should either South Korea or Argentina win and they are defeated by Greece. Lars Lagerbäck will refuse to accept a group stage exit and Nigeria should get the better of a Greek side devoid of ideas.

Group B MP W D L Pts
South Korea 1 1 0 0 3
Argentina 1 1 0 0 3
Nigeria 1 0 0 1 0
Greece 1 0 0 1 0

Group C:

To everyone’s surprise Slovenia sit in pole position in Group C. They capitalised on England’s 1-1 draw with the United States, beating Algeria 1-0. Slovenia were vulnerable on the flanks, where Ziani was a constant threat. The United States’ Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan could pose similar problems to the Slovenians should they be allowed to transgress deep into Slovenian territory. Slovenia’s goalkeeper Samir Handanovic carried his remarkable Serie A form into the World Cup and will prove a difficult obstacle for Bob Bradley’s side.

The United States themselves were lucky to escape from Rustenberg with a point, Robert Green’s now infamous catastrophy allowing Clint Dempsey to score. USMNT are capable of producing a much superior performance against Slovenia. The Americans’ defensive core of Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit were solid against England, a huge boon considering Onyewu’s terrible recent history of injury. Bob Bradley will need to consolidate that defensive strength with a more potent strike force if the United States are to wrestle command of the group out of Slovenian hands.

England’s performance has been evaluated countless times since that night in Rustenberg. Last minute call-up Jamie Carragher was beaten easily on occassion by the pace of Jozy Altidore and if the rumours of him starting the next game are proven to be correct then John Terry will need to be on top form.

The conundrum of who is the best candidate to partner Wayne Rooney in attack has not yet been solved by Fabio Capello. Emile Heskey’s performance against the United States was bafflingly praised by some pundits in the immediate aftermath of the game. The reality is that Heskey is not a striker of genuine international-quality. Perhaps the best solution for Fabio Capello would be to move new captain Steven Gerrard forward into a support role for Rooney with a four man midfield behind the two.

Group D:

It is no surprise that Germany are the stand out performers in Group D thusfar. Their 4-0 demolition of Australia was founded on individual brilliance from Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski and fantastic distribution and holding from Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger. It will be a great relief to Jogi Löw to see Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski performing so effectively after both had endured difficult seasons for their club sides.

Australia on the other hand seem destined for elimination. They were powerless to prevent a drubbing at the hands of the Germans and to make matters worse their talisman, Tim Cahill, has been suspended. They must now face Ghana, who were better than their 1-0 scoreline indicates.

Stade Rennais’ Asamoah Gyan gave the Black Stars victory over Serbia. The real star performer, however, was Kevin Prince Boateng. The Portsmouth midfielder was busy, creative and determined against the Serbs and if he can continue that form against Australia then Ghana will stand on the brink of qualification for a second successive place in the last sixteen.

Serbia were predestined to be the tournament’s dark horses. They were abject against Ghana. Their celebrated defence was challenged by an under-strength Ghana and it is forgivable to think that they will have even greater difficulty against Germany’s multi-pronged attack.








Group D MP W D L Pts
Germany 1 1 0 0 3
Ghana 1 1 0 0 3
Serbia 1 0 0 1 0
Australia 1 0 0 1 0

Group E:

Holland failed to reach their potential against Denmark but still managed to escape with a comfortable 2-0 victory. The return of winger Arjen Robben will only add further strength to their challenge and they may yet become the swaggering champions that a large section of the world’s observers reckon they were born to become. The revelation of the game against Denmark was Eljero Elia. The young Ajax winger replaced Rafael van der Vaart and made an immediate impact. His energy and innate skill were clear to see and further appearances for the youngster are almost a certainty now.

Japan were everything their reputation told us they were. They were organised. They were boring. And they numbed Cameroon into submission. Keisuke Honda’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory over the Lions. They will not be so fortunate against Holland.

Cameroon’s performance was toothless (pardon the pun). Samuel Eto’o was the only player to emerge with any credit and even he seemed powerless to prevent Japan from hanging on to a clean sheet and a victory. Cameroon should improve against Denmark, they have too many players of high quality not to. A victory is required. Anything less may spell an embarrassing early exit.

Group E MP W D L Pts
Netherlands 1 1 0 0 3
Japan 1 1 0 0 3
Cameroon 1 0 0 1 0
Denmark 1 0 0 1 0

Group F:

Paraguay 1 0 1 0 1
Slovakia 1 0 1 0 1
Italy 1 0 1 0 1
New Zealand 1 0 1 0 1

The immediately striking aspect of your first glance at the Group F table is Italy’s absence from top spot. The World Champions were perhaps the better side against Paraguay but could not convert their superiority into sincere shooting opportunities. If Marcello Lippi insists on keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation then he will need to remove Iaquinta. The Juventus forward was unthreatening throughout the encounter with Paraguay and his place in the starting line-up ahead of Antonio Di Natale is ponderous at best.

Of more immediate concern to ‘gli Azzuri’ is the fitness of Gianluigi Buffon. The decorated goalkeeper has suffered a recurrence of a herniated disc and may play no further part in Italy’s quest to retain the World Cup. Into the breach will step young Federico Marchetti. The Cagliari goalkeeper was a revelation in Serie A this past year and may yet prove to be a worthy replacement to one of the world’s greatest shot-stoppers.

Slovakia controlled the game against New Zealand but concentration lapses ultimately proved to be their undoing. Marek Hamsik, their captain and Vladimir Weiss were stand-out performers against New Zealand and must retain their creative flair if they are to overturn Paraguay as the second side to progress from the group.

There is a feeling that New Zealand have already achieved what they set out to do in drawing with Slovakia. It is unthinkable that they may claim another point against Paraguay or Italy despite their obvious strenghts in defensive organisation.

Group G:

Brazil showed their usual flair but were unable to score more than two goals against North Korea. Robinho and Maicon were the outstanding performers on the night for the Seleçao. They should prove too strong for Portugal, who were terrible against the Côte d’Ivoire, but may yet be tested by the Elephants.

North Korea were the unknown quantity in the ‘Group of Death’. Their star player, Jong Tae Se, garnered a lot of attention for his tears at the national anthems and his subsequent display which culminated in an assist.

Côte d’Ivoire were far more structured than they were in the Cup of African Nations. In Gervinho and Salomon Kalou they have players to supply the now fit Didier Drogba and also to beat fullbacks. If they can achieve a draw against Brazil and proceed to thrash North Korea, then the Brazilians may yet face an unlikely elimination from the World Cup.

Brazil 1 1 0 0 3
Côte d’Ivoire 1 0 1 0 1
Portugal 1 0 1 0 1
North Korea 1 0 0 1 0

Group H:


This group looked to be all about Spain. The European Champions and favourites to lift the World Cup were expected to breeze through this group with minimal fuss. They did not expect to encounter the managerial powerhouse that is Ottmar Hitzfeld and his appropriately strong Switzerland defence. The Swiss demonstrated the frailties within this otherwise exceptional Spain side.

Spain were unable to show the requisite cutting edge and for all of their possession, they mustered very few threatening attempts on goal. They will have a chance at redemption against Honduras, who were disappointing against Chile.

Chile were every bit as entertaining as we were led to believe. Marco Bielsa has created an attacking side with a remarkable flair and creativity to it. The tactical decision to field only three players was not exposed as folly by a blunt Honduras but achieving the same result against Spain may prove to be too difficult a challenge.

The Winners and Losers of Day 1

Dave Hanratty evaluates the heroes and villains of the opening day of the World Cup Finals.

Uruguay

While not especially impressive, the South Americans picked up an important point against arguably their toughest opponents in Group A. A victory in their next game will put them in the driving seat. While all four teams could only manage a draw, Uruguay will be happy with the solitary point.

Siphiwe Tshabalala

The World Cup has often been a shop window of sorts for players previously unknown on the world stage, and the first goalscorer of the tournament has done his future prospects no harm. Following on from Philip Lahm’s screamer against Costa Rica in the opening game of 2006, Tshabalala capped off a fine passing move with an absolutely spectacular finish. Expect to see it again come the inevitable goal of the tournament competition.

RTE


Ireland may not be there, but we can relax in the warm, glowing embrace of the RTE punditry team. It took less than an hour for things to descend into surrealism, from Johnny Giles desperately trying to remember the title of Casablanca (all the while ignoring poor Graeme Souness) and host Darragh Maloney presenting the panel with three customised England jerseys. Souness couldn’t hide his disgust, but he was no doubt on edge due to the constant needling of arch-nemesis Eamonn Dunphy. Forget potential scrapes between Germany and Ghana, it’ll be a miracle if Souness and Dunphy don’t come to blows before July 11th.

Deaf people

For they will never know the horrors of the vuvuzela.

Losers

Everyone else

Unlike the omnipresent horn, I shall refrain from droning on at length regarding the subject. While not quite as irritating as feared, the vuvuzela does have the ability to really distract from proceedings. RTE host Darragh Maloney was at pains to point out to complaining viewers that there is nothing RTE can do about it, so it’s a case of just getting used to it. One can’t help but wonder what confusing scenes would unfold should a swarm of bees descend upon the stadium.

France

The unforgettable method of their qualification masked just how poor 2006’s finalists were throughout their campaign. Their performance against Uruguay was listless and uninspired. Sidney Govou’s early miss will be rued in the French camp as they managed to come up with nothing else in a fairly tedious game. While they should ease past Mexico and South Africa, this performance recalled the 2002 World Cup campaign which saw France fall at the first hurdle.

South Africa

While it may seem cruel to put the hosts in the losing column given the spirit, energy and conviction they played with and the grand atmosphere provided, South Africa should have three points on the board. A combination of sloppy finishing and sloppier defending saw to it that they only have one. While John Giles may have dismissed goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune’s dramatic head-in-hands reaction as him trying to get his photograph in tomorrow’s paper, the reality is that the South Africans now have a huge mountain to climb to progress.

Mexico

Failing to enter the half-time break a goal up invited South Africa to attack and gave them the belief that they could win. The Mexicans showed little of their impressive pre-World Cup form, lacking bite up front and playing a largely pedestrian game. A point helps neither team and both France and Uruguay will have looked on with confidence for their forthcoming encounters.

Carlos Vela

The sometime Arsenal forward was utterly anonymous throughout.

Steven Pienaar

The pre-match talk was laced with rumours that Arsenal are looking to sign the impressive Everton midfielder, however his performance was so lacklustre he will hope Arsene Wenger wasn’t watching.

Sepp Blatter

His very odious presence threatened to derail the fun and games.

ITV

By contrast to RTE’s warts-and-all coverage, ITV have sauntered down the road marked “patronisation”. From Ned Boulton harassing the locals in Soweto to Peter Drury shrieking “BAFANA BAFANA!” and “A goal for ALL of Africa!” following Tshabalala’s stunning strike, it’s a wonder they didn’t stop short of patting an African child on the head. Heavy-handed and clumsy, it’s what we’ve come to expect from ITV, and the scary part is that Clive Tyldsley and David Pleat have yet to be unleashed.

On the punditry side of things, Adrian Chiles was more dead-eyed than usual and his teleprompter reading much more noticeable, while Andy Townsend’s pink shirt was more offensive than the vuvuzelas in the stadium. ITV’s production values are obviously going to outshine RTE, but their overall delivery leaves a lot to be desired. And let’s not mention James Corden, shall we?

Day 1 – World Cup Daily

So the first day of the 2010 World Cup is already ‘in the books’. It was a day that started with news of a tragedy, brought hope and expectations, encapsulated scenes of unbridled joy and frustration. World Cup Daily takes a look at the moments that made Day 1.

Moment of the Day: The game may have finished as a draw, but the immeasurable joy brought about by the electrifying goal scored by Siphiwe Tshabalala must surely rank as one of the finest moments in the tournament’s most recent years. The sumptuous lofted pass offered by team-mate Katlego Mphela allowed Tshabalala to control the ball just inside the penalty area and fire a thunderous left-footed shot high into the far side of the net. The vuvuzelas reached fever pitch as fans of Bafana Bafana believed that they were on the verge of witnessing a historic victory. Unfortunately for them, their hopes were dashed by Rafael Marquez’s equaliser. The moment, however, will live long in the memory.

Questionable Decision of the Day: The opening ceremony was the usual mix of culture, music, dance and dung beetles.

Adidas, creators of the controversial Jabulani football featured in this summer’s World Cup, will be wondering what they did to deserve the criticisms aimed their way in recent weeks. Their misfortune continued today as a giant dung beetle pushed an enormous Jabulani around the field at Soccer City like the inflated lump of excrement the ball itself is said to be. Somewhere a Nike executive was celebrating.

Schadenfreude of the day:

Thierry Henry’s appeal for a handball against Uruguay will have come as some solace to the legions of fans, both in Ireland and elsewhere, who still take issue with the French internationals unpenalised foul against the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup Qualifying Playoff. Should Henry’s unheeded demand for a penalty be seen as deeply ironic (at least in Alanis Morisette’s understanding of the word ‘ironic’)?

The Vuvuzela Award for Irritation of the Day:

People complaining about the vuvuzela. Television networks were inundated with complaints from viewers about the constant,  monotonous hum of the vuvuzela. That didn’t stop the anchors from voicing their objections to the plastic horns themselves. Were the vuvuzelas all that intrusive or are people just too sensitive?

Sepp Blatter Mishap of the Day: That speech before the game. It infuriated the thousands of Twitterers watching the game and presumably those in attendance too. Nobody likes him, but he doesn’t care. Carry on wayward Sepp.

Ke Nako – It Is Time

South Africa v Mexico

Venue: Soccer City, Johannesburg

Date: Friday, 11 June

Time: 15.00 BST (16.00 local)

The hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup enter the tournament’s opening fixture buoyed by recent performances and by the unbridled devotion offered to them by the South African public. Hoping to upset the party will be Javier Aguirre’s Mexico, a side with a strong recent World Cup history and players of genuine pedigree.

When the draw for the World Cup was made the instant reaction was that South Africa would become the first World Cup hosts to fail to progress from the Group Stage. Placed in Group A alongside France (winners of the 1998 World Cup), Uruguay (winners in 1930 and 1950) and tomorrow’s opponents Mexico, many believed that South Africa would struggle to muster even a single point.

That belief, potentially a correct one, still exists in some quarters. However, Bafana Bafana, guided by former World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira come into Friday’s game unbeaten in twelve fixtures, a run stretching back to October 2009. The same pessimism greeted South Africa’s participation in the last summer’s Confederations Cup where they narrowly missed out on Third Place. If South Africa are to enjoy another successful international tournament then achieving a result against a talented Mexican side is an essential prerequisite.

Mexico should prove to be a formidable opposition for the hosts. So adept at controlling possession and tempo, El Tri would

usually look to release their pacy wingers Andrés Guardado and Giovanni dos Santos in a bid to terrorise the South African full-backs. However, Javier Aguirre has surprised many with his selections in recent international friendlies. He has left out Guardado of Deportivo la Coruña, wily veteran Cuauhtémoc Blanco and coveted goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa with varying consequences. The uncertainty surrounding the lineup perhaps revealing that Aguirre is not entirely convinced that El Tri can win games at the World Cup in their conventional 4-4-2/4-3-3 setup.

For all of their skill and competence with the football, Mexico must improve their cutting edge. Against England, they dominated a potential World Cup winning side but were unable to capitalise, losing 3-1. In qualifying, six players were equal top scorers with three goals each.

South Africa have suffered problems with strikers as well. The omission of West Ham United’s Benni McCarthy was not a popular decision. Without a recognisable goal scorer, South Africa will struggle to win the one game that is usually required to qualify for the Round of 16. Step forward, Katlego Mphela. Four goals in three games for the Mamelodi Sundowns striker including goals against strong Columbia and Denmark sides has relaxed criticism of the ponderous decision to leave McCarthy out.

Despite this, Mexico are still favourites for this opening encounter. Under normal circumstances, Mexico should and probably would win this match. These are not normal circumstances. Bafana Bafana have united the Rainbow Nation. When the two teams emerge from the tunnel at Soccer City they will be met with one of the most impassioned crowds yet witnessed at a World Cup. Vuvuzelas, hard-hats, altitude and up to 90,000 fans combined will make any fixture against Parreira’s side a challenge even before kick-off.

This match will tell us a lot about the balance of power in Group A. Should Mexico overwhelm South Africa en route to a comfortable victory then they will be favourites for a place in the Round of 16. If they are stifled by the raucous atmosphere and the combative nature of captain Aaron Mokoena and his side and draw then all attention will refocus on Mexico v Uruguay. If, however, South Africa are able to pull off an upset and win, then there is a genuine opportunity for the host nation to avoid breaking precedent and progress to the next round.

That is the aim of Carlos Alberto Parreira, who informed the media that people must fear his side.

“Everybody has to respect us. We are ready to fight. We respect everybody, but they must also respect us. We will take every game as a final. We will fight in every game.”

Prediction – South Africa 1-2 Mexico

Engimatic Domenech leaves out Benzema

In a typically questionable move from Les Bleus’ coach Raymond Domenech, Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been left out of France’s preliminary World Cup squad. The decision has come as a surprise to the general sporting public. Domenech has justified the decision, citing Benzema’s poor form for Real Madrid this season.

Manchester City’s Patrick Viera and Arsenal’s Samir Nasri are too other noteworthy omissions.

Domenech has called upon the services of teenagers Yann M’Vila and Mathieu Valbuena, the moves reminiscent of his derided decision to bring Pascal Chimbonda to the 2006 World Cup.

Goalkeepers Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyonnais), Steve Mandanda (Olympique de Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Girondins de Bordeaux), Mickael Landreau (Lille)

Defenders Rod Fanni (Stade Rennais), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Eric Abidal (FC Barcelona), Adil Rami (Lille), William Gallas (Arsenal), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Anthony Reveillere (Olympique Lyonnais), Marc Planus (Girondins de Bordeaux), Gael Clichy (Arsenal)

Midfielders Alou Diarra (Girondins de Bordeaux), Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid), Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyonnais), Franck Ribéry (FC Bayern München), Yoann Gourcuff (Girondins de Bordeaux), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Yann M’Vila (Stade Rennais), Abou Diaby (Arsenal)

Forwards Thierry Henry (FC Barcelona), Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Djibril Cissé (Panathanaikos), Sidney Govou (Olympique Lyonnais), Hatem Ben Arfa (Olympique de Marseille), Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique de Marseille), Jimmy Briand (Stade Rennais), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse)