Thursday, 17 June 2010

Mexico 2 France 0 and Thierry Henry can only sit on his hands

Okay, here’s the Group A scenario. France and South Africa, for obvious reasons, will be desperate to beat each other when they conclude their currently winless campaigns in Bloemfontein on June 22. They have only a point apiece to show for their efforts so far.

About 500 miles away in Rustenburg, Uruguay will play Mexico. Both have four points. And the bitter truth for 1998 champions and 2006 runners-up France and hosts South Africa is this: if the Americans play out a quiet goalless draw, it doesn’t matter who beats who at the Free State Stadium.

I tell you one group of neutrals who may have had smiling eyes last night as Mexico produced this nightmare scenario with a 2-0 win over France. The Irish. They were put out, as I might have mentioned before, by Thierry Henry’s outrageous handball which clinched the play-off in Paris last November.

And there he was in at a packed Peter Mokabe Stadium in freezing Polokwane yesterday, in his beanie hate, reduced to the role of spectator. A mere bench warmer, on a night when warmth was at a premium. Left to sit on his hands, as it were.

The Hand of Frog unable to alter this cruel state of affairs. The inquest into Raymond Domenech’s final weeks in charge will begin in the morning, with gusto. Laurent Blanc takes over Les Bleus after this World Cup and, from what we’ve been hearing, he can’t arrive too soon.

What was last night all about? The French, like many others, appeared to scared to hit their free-kicks with any va-va-voom because they keep ballooning over the bar. That’s understandable, a trend in a tournament when the infamous Jabulani leaves us without a single undeflected long-range goal.

But not to trouble the Mexican goalkeeper all night? Frightening, with a side full of millionaires. Mexico, a team of terriers, simply made them look like has-beens. Or never-weres. The Republic of Ireland could hardly have been worse. And we know what a craick their fans would have had over here.

Mexico deserved victory, if only for the sheer tempo at which they played this one. A sharper linesman might have called Javier Hernandez off-side when he broke clear in the 63rd minute to beat the goalkeeper and score.

But then Eric Abidal upended Pablo Berrera and the fussy Saudi Arabian referee Al Ghamdi gave the spot kick. Veteran sub Cuauhtemoc Blanco, with the longest run-up you’ve ever seen for a penalty, rammed it home.

Tottenham’s Giovanni Dos Santos, currently on loan at Turkey, was simply magnificent. Harry Redknapp must give the Mexican Billy Whizz another go. Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery flattered to deceive, unable to make anything work down the left for France. Chelsea’s Florent Malouda was invisible, Arsenal’s Abou Diabi absent.

Another fascinating night. An absorbing day seven. We’ve had 14 goals in four second round games after the dour opening clashes. This is how it’s going to be from now on. Life and death. Until, perhaps, the fateful game between Mexico and Uruguay. That may be drawn and quartered.

And now the French, like the hosts, must sweat until June 22. When even a win may not be enough.


  1. Viva Mexico! The Cheat and France get their just deserts! Hopefully Mexico and Uruguay play a friendly little draw and guarantee France's exit. Not fair eh? But not as bad as cheating your way into the World Cup. Justice is done!

  2. But then South Africa go out... not good for World Cup!

  3. It is a total myth that Ireland was cheated out of the World Cup. Genuine football followers know that you can't take one incident in isolation and say it cost the match/league or whatever. There was still time for the Irish to score, had they been good enough. Ireland failed to qualify because of results in the group stages. Had they done the job properly, they wouldn't even have been involved in the play-off. They got a very dodgy penalty in one of the group matches, but that is conveniently forgotten. The media whipped the Irish into such a frenzy where, at one stage, they had the public believing that there could be 33 teams in the finals.
    Disgraceful what Henry did. But cheating is part and parcel of the game nowadays.

  4. Just wish the Irish were here, that's all. They would have silenced the Vuvuzelas!

  5. Would have been brilliant to have the Irish here instead of the frogs. The advantage of supporting Ireland is that you don't expect them to win. So when they lose, you don't feel disappointed.