x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

French can't afford to let Mexico win - and they know it

A French team in disarray will face a Mexico lineup who are growing in confidence in match that could be crucial in determining who progresses from Group A.

POLOKWANE // A French team in disarray will face a Mexico lineup who are growing in confidence in match that could be crucial in determining who progresses from Group A. Mexico scored a late equaliser in the tournament's first match against South Africa, taking some of the gloss of the opening day celebrations for the host nation. France opened later that day with a lacklustre scoreless draw against Uruguay that did not encourage anybody except their group rivals.

"They have their names, we have ours. But names don't play, men do," Gerardo Torrado, the Mexico captain, said. "Nothing short of a win is good for us." Eric Abidal, the France defender, said "things will become even harder if we have a bad result" because the French then have to take on South Africa in their last group game, played in front of passionate home supporters. France are usually slow starters, having failed to win their opening match at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and at the European Championship two years ago.

Although France went on to reach the final at Germany 2006, Raymond Domenech's team seem dispirited and dishevelled amid rumours of a row between the coach and Florent Malouda. "Football is simple. You have to win matches, and once you win matches everyone is beautiful and the best friends in the world," Malouda said. "As soon as results become more difficult, you see stories appearing left and right. The only answer is to win games and then everyone will be smiling at you."

Malouda is pushing for a place in Domenech's starting lineup after being dropped to the bench against Uruguay the day after a heated training session where Domenech told him not to fly so heavily into tackles. Meanwhile, Fifa turned down France's request to draft in a replacement for their injured back-up goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso, who tore his left hamstring in training Monday. * AP Watch Argentina v S Korea (3.30pm), Greece v Nigeria (6pm) and France v Mexico (10.30pm)
all on Aljazeera Sport +9 and Aljazeera World Cup