Hopes hang by a thread in Group A

2010-06-21 09:33

South Africa face a French side in disarray tomorrow as they battle

to avoid the indignity of being the only host nation in history to crash out in

the first round of a World Cup.

Bafana Bafana slumped to a 3-0 defeat against Uruguay in their

second group game following an opening day draw with Mexico, leaving them rooted

at the bottom of Group A with a single point and a minus-three goal

difference.

France, winners in 1998 and finalists in 2006, have flopped in

South Africa, suffering a miserable 2-0 reverse against Mexico following a

goalless draw with Uruguay, with French coach Raymond Domenech admitting: “We

need a miracle now.”

France’s disastrous campaign has been plunged into chaos after the

players yesterday refused to train in protest at the decision to send home star

striker Nicolas Anelka.

The players released a statement protesting against the Chelsea

striker’s exclusion from the squad for a foul-mouthed rant during the defeat to

Mexico.

Dressing room

bust-up

The players said they deplored the way the dressing room bust-up

between Anelka and Domenech had been revealed by sports daily L’Equipe.

French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot was to hold crisis talks

with the mutinous players and Domenech today.

Amid the rancour in the French camp, even the host nation are not

immune to claims of divisions.

Players from KwaZulu-Natal are allegedly unhappy with what they

consider to be underperforming ‘superstars’ from Johannesburg and Pretoria

clubs.

Regardless of the team’s perilous situation, there is sure to be

fervent support for the host nation at the Free State stadium but even if Bafana

or France win, it could prove to be irrelevant.

That is because if Mexico and Uruguay play out a draw in their

match in Rustenburg, which takes place at the same time as the France-South

Africa clash, the Latin American sides would progress.

Hope

But France and South Africa will take hope from the fact that

Mexico and Uruguay will be keen to avoid facing the impressive Argentinians in

the last 16 – the likely fate for the runners-up in Group A.

Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said: “There is respect for

the French but we do not fear them. We want to play well and finish the

competition in style by winning.”

Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar said the South Africans had tried

to put the pain of their 3-0 defeat behind them: “It is normal for a

professional footballer to be disappointed after losing a game, but you have to

forget about it.”

Neil Tovey, captain of South Africa’s 1996 African Nations

Cup-winning team, believes Parreira must abandon his cloak of caution and play

two strikers: “I am very disappointed with the efforts of Bafana so far. In the

game against Mexico we played well in the second half and that was it. We have

performed satisfactorily in one half of one game.”

Fifa has dismissed fears that Mexico and Uruguay may conspire to

draw in order qualify together for the last 16.

A similar scenario occurred in 1982 when Germany and Austria played

out a dire goalless draw to squeeze out Algeria.

And at Euro 2004, the Swedes and Danes – another pair of neighbours

– drew 2-2 to eliminate the furious Italians.

Domenech insists the conspiracy theory is irrelevant: “I am not

bothered about the others. We have to play and do our thing and the other match

is not my problem.”

Key to match

What happens between Mexico and Uruguay: South Africa and France go into their match in Bloemfontein knowing

that their efforts to qualify for the knockout phase could be irrelevant if the

Latin American teams draw in Rustenburg. South Africa and France must put that

out of their minds and try to score as many goals as possible to boost their

goal difference.

 

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