Give them hell, Bafana

2010-06-22 00:00

BAFANA Bafana’s final World Cup Group A game in Bloemfontein this afternoon has been charged to the max by an opposition at war with itself.

At the start of the competition, South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira promised that his side would give “hell” to their opponents, and if ever there was a time for the World Cup hosts to make good on that promise, it is in today’s game.

Following an encouraging 1-1 draw against Mexico, Bafana’s chances were largely crushed by a 3-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday.

Mexico’s 2-0 defeat of France the following evening left Bafana having to beat ninth-ranked France today by up to six goals, though perhaps only two or three depending on the result between Mexico and Uruguay in Rustenburg.

And if Bafana needed any indication of the state of disarray the French are in, it was in a packed, charged press conference at the Free State Stadium last night where France’s embattled coach, Raymond Domenech, faced the media after his side’s meltdown.

Simmering tensions over the past few months exploded this weekend following the sending home of France striker Nicolas Anelka for a heated exchange with Domenech at half time against Mexico.

Following a training ground bust-up between captain Patrice Evra and fitness coach Robert Duverne on Sunday, the French refused to train. Team director Jean-Louis Valentin resigned soon after.

Producing the cryptic and openly arrogant answers at yesterday’s press conference that have made him hated by the French press and public, Domenech labelled his players’ stance “stupid”.

The coach, however, did urge his players to redeem themselves with a good performance against Bafana Bafana.

Earlier he pointed out that the France meltdown could have a backlash, and said South Africa must not concentrate on the problems in the opposition’s camp.

“Since before the beginning of the World Cup there has been a lot of friction between the French players and the coach,” Parreira said.

“What’s happened in the last two days will not have an effect on the game on the pitch.”

He added: “Outside the pitch the news will be carried worldwide. When the French players enter the pitch they will know they have to win, and they will know the world is watching them.

“I think they are going to perform very well,” he said.

Parreira said it would not necessarily be an embarrassment for Bafana to become the first host nation not to progress past the first round, should that be the case.

“We know the expectation of the country is very high. But we know there is always a first time [for the host team to exit in the first round], especially in the very tough group that we have.

“If it happens, it happens. I think it will be sad, it will be a disappointment. But I don’t think it’s a failure,” said Parreira.

Bafana have already played one high-profile game, flighted to an international television audience, in their opener against Mexico.

France’s off-field disarray has thrown global attention on tomorrow’s game, too.

The French were controversial qualifiers for the World Cup in a playoff against Ireland where Thierry Henry’s hand-ball set up the winning goal.

Globally audiences might will on the host nation this afternoon in search of poetic justice, while South Africans will be hoping for a miracle too.

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