Les Bleus failed to convince against the equally flat-footed Uruguay in the tournament’s second game, and Mexico were left with a feeling of relief after a late but more than deserved equaliser against South Africa in the first game. The evening’s late game is a chance to reconcile their feelings of inadequacy.
With Gourcuff missing, the creative impetus has been passed to Abou Diaby – this is however an oxymoron and effectively means France’s best options will be down the flanks with Malouda restored to the starting line-up. Henry, the team’s handy captain, will be called upon only in extreme circumstances, making Domenech’s leadership that more laughable.
Mexico quite simply need to show more. Guillermo Franco will not lead the line, leaving the bewildered and highly unimpressive Carlos Vela to spur on Mexico’s attacks. Carlos Salcido, so energetic and eager to drive them in their match against South Africa, will need to produce top form once more if they are to stand a chance with such a weak team.
With everything riding on the match after Uruguay demolished South Africa, the likely victors will be the French. Able to cope with lightweight shimmies of Giovani Dos Santos, Vela and Efrain Juarez, Eric Abidal and William Gallas will build the foundations of a sturdy display. Malouda, given a much-needed confidence boost by his restoration, will almost certainly dictate the play, and Anelka will seek to capture another personal first by scoring his first World Cup goal. If things aren’t going well at half-time, look out for Marseille’s highly under-appreciated Mathieu Valbuena – a menace to the opposition’s midfield. 1-0 to France.