For coach Didier Deschamps, France's on-pitch performance on Sunday left plenty to be desired. But away from the pitch, the news might be even worse.
Les Bleus conceded a late goal on the way to a disappointing 1-1 draw against Paraguay in a pre-World Cup friendly in Nice. But the match was overshadowed by rampant speculation among the French media that star attacker Franck Ribery is set to miss the showcase event through injury.
France spurned a host of chances in both halves before finally taking the lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. Substitute Antoine Griezmann, who had replaced Loic Remy in the 64th minute, scored the opener eight minutes from time, curling in his shot from the edge of the box after Paraguay failed to clear a corner.
But Paraguay, who did not qualify for the World Cup, equalised in the 89th minute as Victor Caceres redirected Jorge Rojas' free-kick into the net.
As Bleacher Report's Jonathan Johnson noted via Twitter, France's poor defending in the closing moments highlighted the need to convert the chances they had created earlier in the match.
Really poor defending that from France. A reminder that chances not taken at the other end will be punished in Brazil.— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) June 1, 2014
Regardless of the result, though, Sunday's friendly was always going to be overshadowed by the speculation over Ribery, who did not play due to a back injury. The 31-year-old was a finalist in the most recent Ballon d'Or voting, and was instrumental in Bayern Munich's back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2013 and 2014, as well as the club's Champions League triumph last season.
France-based journalist Matt Spiro highlighted the widespread reports before the match.
Growing speculation in France that Franck Ribery's back problem will keep him out of the World Cup. Would be massive blow for Les Bleus— Matt Spiro (@mattspiro) June 1, 2014
Whether or not Ribery travels to Brazil, France will be hoping to improve on a disastrous performance at the 2010 World Cup that saw Les Bleus eliminated at the group stage. This time, Deschamps' side have been drawn into Group E with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.
First, however, France will play one final warm-up friendly, against Jamaica on June 8 in Villeneuve.
France's first chance fell to Remy in the ninth minute, but the forward's shot from the left was weak and went harmlessly wide. Paraguay had a chance in the 28th minute as Caceres' shot deflected toward goal off of Patrice Evra, but France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris reacted quickly to make a smart save.
Remy had another chance four minutes later, trying a spectacular overhead volley that flew off target. Then, in the 35th minute, Paraguay's David Mendieta shot at Lloris directly from a free-kick in a dangerous area.
With the match still scoreless at half-time, Lloris saved again in the 52nd minute, keeping out Samudo's powerful free-kick. Seven minutes later, Giroud directed a header on target from a corner, but Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva pushed the ball away to keep France out.
The game remained scoreless until the 82nd minute, when Griezmann curled in a lovely shot from the edge of the box following a corner. But with France seemingly headed to victory, the visitors popped up with a late equaliser, via Caceres, to give Deschamps plenty to think about before Brazil.
|Rio Mavuba (for Cabaye, 46')||N/A||6.4|
|Eliaquim Mangala (for Sakho, 46')||N/A||6.5|
|Antoine Griezmann (for Remy, 64')||N/A||7.1|
|Clement Grenier (for Matuidi, 64')||N/A||6.3|
|Moussa Sissoko (for Valbuena, 72')||N/A||6.0|
Ratings via WhoScored.com
Didier Deschamps says France are hopeful Franck Ribery will be fit to face Jamaica next Sunday. "No change to the 23." (via @Leclubliza)— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) June 1, 2014