The second round of matches starts Wednesday with South Africa - Uruguay followed by Mexico - France on Thursday. With all four teams tied at one point apiece victory will be essential to be in the driver's set for advancing. More positive soccer and more goals would be most welcome.
See my preview on the S.A. - Uruguay game here.
I have no idea which French side will show up for the Mexico game. Will it be the one that played Uruguay with no purpose, no rhythm and never looked like scoring or the one has the potential to match the best. Nicolas Anelka and Sidney Govou up front seemed barely aware that the other was on the same pitch. Frank Ribery huffed and puffed in between errant passes or crosses, managing to lose possession every time he tried to take on a man.
The defense managed quite well only because Diego Forlan was off target whenever he worked himself into a scoring position. Youann Gourcuff, the new French midfield hope was invisible for most of the game, creating little.
Florent Malouds, who had a stellar season with Chelsea was surprisingly left off the starting eleven. When he entered in the 78th minute along with Thierry Henry, France showed a little more life but still failed to create any clearcut chances against 10 men.
I assume Raymond "Dead Coach Walking" Dominech has consulted his stars and will start Malouda. Whether this ignites the team remains to be seen but bear in mind France without Zenedine Zidane has twice failed to make it out of the group stage in either European Nations or World Cup finals since 1998.
Talk of turmoil in the French camp seems real enough but remember they sleepwalked through their group in 2006. It was a much easier group than this one and Gourcuff is no Zidane. Their performance only made the talk of turmoil that much more believable.
Mexico were unfortunate not to have locked up their game against a nervous South Africa in the first half and were equally fortunate to come away with a draw when South Africa woke up in the second half.
In between the showed a lot of skill and poise but wasted chances, which appears to be the current plague in these finals let them down. It's something they habitually do.
In goal, Oscar Perez is always exciting, though often for the wrong reason. The defense did well for the most although South Africa's speed and long through balls troubled them leading led to Siphiwe Tshabalala's brilliant strike. Paul Aguillar was effective moving forward and caused Lucas Thwala, the left back countless headaches but when he was replaced at the half Aguillar was shut down and he too was replaced soon after.
Their midfield controlled the game when South Africa could barely string two passes together but once South Africa found their rhythm they were second best for much of the time. Rafaael Marquez had his usual solid performance but none of the others shone.
Giovanni Dos Santos was Mexico's man of the match and troubled the defense continually. Carlos Vela had a mediocre game until he was replaced. The much touted Javier Hernandez surprisingly stared on the bench came on in the 75th minute but did little in the short time he was on the bench.
The old war horse, Cuauhtemoc Blanco came on as a sub and despite having added quite a few pounds, showed just why he is considered Mexico's best player in recent years. I assume he will play the same role on Wednesday.
I am sure Hernandez will start and show why Manchester United signed him. With Dos Santos on song they can play havoc with the French defense.
Mexico is a talent laden team, potentially their best in years and if the France play as they did in their first game I cannot see Mexico losing. I suspect we will see another stale performace from the French.
Of statistical note is that France and Mexico have played 6 times over the years, France winning five while the other ended in a draw. Only two were in the World Cup in 1930 France won 4-1 and they drew 1-1 in 1966. In the 1996 World Cup France were in the same group as Mexico, Uruguay and the hosts, England. In 2010 those three are in the same group with the hosts again. If history repeats itself........I'm dreaming. That will take divine intervention and luck as well.
Mexico wins going away either 3-1 or 2-0.