World Cup 2010 – Poor French face early exit after Mexico loss
Substitute Javier Hernandez gave Mexico the lead on 64 minutes when the young Manchester United forward sprung the offside trap from Rafael Marquez’s through ball before dribbling neatly past the France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to coolly convert in a buzzing Polokwane.
Fellow Mexican sub Cuauhtemoc Blanco, 37, added a second from the penalty spot eleven minutes from the end as he drilled low into the bottom right-hand corner after Pablo Barrera was chopped down by a floundering Eric Abidal.
Mexican icon Blanco’s previous two goals at the finals came from the penalty spot. The last one was against Croatia in 2002, but he has lost none of his composure after scoring from a long approach to bury the penalty and perhaps French hopes at this tournament.
Mexico’s first win over France in the international arena means they are firmly in the driving seat to reach the last 16.
A draw between Mexico and Uruguay, who each have four points, in the final group game on Tuesday would ensure both teams progress, even if Raymond Domenech’s side finish off with a win over hosts South Africa.
Domenech will be subjected to heavy criticism by the French press after leaving France’s record scorer Thierry Henry and playmaker Yoann Gourcuff on the bench at the Peter Mokaba stadium. He opted for the indifferent Nicolas Anelka up front rather than Henry, who has a formidable haul of 51 goals from 122 games for Les Bleus.
France and Mexico had met six times before this match. France had won five and drawn one. Mexico had yet to beat France, but they provided glimpses of what was to come in the first period.
Mexico captain Marquez lobbed a ball over the top, but Carlos Vela rushed his effort from inside the box and whacked it over. It was a decent chance with no French defenders near him.
France’s best moment of the half arrived on 13 minutes when Florent Malouda delivered a free-kick after Franck Ribery was caught by Hector Moreno. The free-kick ended with Ribery flashing a shot across goal, but nobody was on hand to convert from five yards out.
Mexico continued to display bags of adventure.
Carlos Salcido uncorked a shot from 25 yards on 17 minutes, but he screwed the ball narrowly wide from the edge of the box. It was a nice bit of play by the Mexican player and the best moments of the half continued to fall to the Central Americans.
Poor defending by William Gallas almost gifted Mexico the opener just before the half-hour mark. The Arsenal defender was standing too far away from Salcido.
The Mexican drilled a shot in from an acute angle, but Lloris was alert to block.
Substitute Barrera, who replaced Vela due to a hamstring injury, almost had the dream introduction. He tried desperately to latch on to a cross by Salcido, but the ball rebounded off Lloris before flying to safety.
The half finished with Mexico in the ascendancy as Giovani dos Santos drilled narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Domenech introduced Andre-Pierre Gignac for the poor Anelka, but it was to make little difference.
Mexico goalkeeper Oscar Perez was forced to look lively to make two very agile stops to deny Ribery and Malouda from the edge of the box, but that was about as good as it was to get for the former winners.
Domenech cut a subdued figure at the full-time whistle as the unused Barcelona striker Henry, part of the squad that won the tournament 12 years ago, looked on in some bemusement from the bench.
Only four years after losing on penalties to Italy in the final, France face a humiliating elimination at the event’s group stages.
France v Mexico
1st Half Goals 0-0
Shots on Target 4-5
Shots off Target 5-5
Blocked Shots 4-1
Yellow Cards 2-4
Red Cards 0-0
Passing Success 80.2%-76.7%
Tackles Success 66.7%-75%
Territorial Advantage 57.7%-42.3%
Desmond Kane / Eurosport