Boy Group A is going to be a tight finish. I’ve just watched Uruguay’s 3-0 beating of South Africa, thanks to another cancelled class – I’ve had a lot of them since the World Cup started. The South Americans put in a much better performance than they did against France, and although they hardly set the world on fire with anything overly spectacular, they put in a professional enough day’s work. There was a little Latin flair. And a lot of….well, stuff that you’d normally associate with ‘death on ice‘. Was it a penalty? Yup…the keeper shouldn’t have left his leg out like that. Did the Uruguayan make the most of it? Like he’d been shot…
I’m trying to work out who is under the most pressure tomorrow, France or Mexico. If Mexico win, then we can start up some decent Latin American conspiracy theories. I’d bet my life’s savings (not very much) on that game being followed up with Mexico drawing against Uruguay 0-0, with both teams going through to the knock out rounds, and France and South Africa going home regardless of their result.
On the other hand, if France and Mexico draw tomorrow, the pressure is definitely on the latter. Mexico will have to beat Uruguay in their final game, and by at least three goals, to be certain of going through. Unless both Mexico/Uruguay and France/South Africa games are drawn, in which case, France and Mexico will finish level on points and level on goal difference. It’ll come down to who has scored the most goals, in which case Mexico will kick off with a one goal advantage.
But if France were to draw South Africa 1-1 and Mexico draw Uruguay 0-0, then that means it finishes as tight as can be. Dead equal. What happens next to split them? A toss of a coin. Imagine, leaving the World Cup, beaten by the toss of a coin? The final group standings in a World Cup has only once ever gone to a coin toss, back in 1990. But no team was eliminated then, as third place also went through to the next round.
There’s another possibility. Were France to beat Mexico, then lose to South Africa, with Mexico beating Uruguay, then all four teams would finish on four points. And it gets messy. Am I confusing you with all these possibilities yet? Yes, well…..at least I’ve gotten across the key point. This group is as tight as a….. Whatever. Uruguay are definitely in the driving seat, although their place is far from guaranteed. South Africa are as good as out, unless they can thrash France – unlikely. France and Mexico have it all to play for. Bring it on!
So what are Mexico’s chances tomorrow? Depends how you want to look at it. Historically, not good. This will be their fourth meeting with France in a World Cup. They’ve lost twice (4-1 and 3-2) and drawn once (1-1) and have yet to beat their illustrious European foe in a competitive game. On current form though, Mexico could be regarded as favourites. This French team barely qualified for the World Cup at all, needing a highly controversial ‘main de Dieu‘ moment from Thierry Henry in the dying moments of their qualification play off. It still wasn’t the worst handball in football history. But to say the Irish took it badly is an understatement. We Brits chipped in our bit too, of course. Damned French…
Their preparations have hardly been ideal either, with a 1-0 defeat to China just a week or so back. And then there was that dreadful perfomance against Uruguay in their first game of the World Cup. Their manager doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, the French public think he’s an utter idiot, and one of their star players, the magician Gourcuff, has had a massive falling out with the whole camp. I’m just hoping that this all adds up to the Decimoséptimo de Junio being as remembered in Mexico as the Cinco de Mayo. When Mexico last handed the French their butts.
It’s up to Mexico to do what they haven’t been able to do so much of for…..well, most of their footballing history. Score goals. More goals, in particular, than they let in. I hope Guardado starts on the left of midfield this time out. And Chicharito up front with Medina, instead of Franco and Vela. I suspect Chicharito will play, and that sadly Medina will be warming the bench again.
And let’s not forget Blanco, the super sub. He has good memories of France, in 1998. The country, rather than the team, it has to be said. But still. His little party trick went down so well, EA Sports immortalised it. My prediction? Mexico to win 2 goals to 1. And on Friday it will be on to England, playing against Algeria. Surely, surely, surely, there’s three easy points there. Although I hear that, perhaps due to the Vuvuzelas drowning out the sounds of English wails and gnashing of teeth, Capello is bravely going to stick with Rob Green in goal. Who has also been immortalised. Just in not as complimentary a way as Blanco…
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