Our first open thread..fill up the comments section with commentary, updates, questions, etc re the first two games of the day. Don’t be shy..the CultFootball team is unfort not going to be liveblogging these games, but we’ll try to keep an eye on the comments and chime in ourselves.
We’re about 35 minutes from the kickoffs..any pregame questions?
To get the conversation going, here’s some pregame chatter from the NYT Goal blog:
The problems of the French team have been well chronicled, and it’s hard to tell if they are getting better or worse: France Coach Raymond Domenech is considering major lineup changes because some players may not want to playin the wake of Nicolas Anelka’s expulsion from the team, and France’s sports minister said she reduced the remaining players to tears with an emotional appeal on the eve of today’s match.
Mathematically, France and South Africa are still alive in Group A, provided one of them wins and Mexico and Uruguay do not play a tie. But France’s biggest math problem is not in the group standings: it is whether the beleaguered Domenech can still get 11 Frenchmen to agree to play for him.
South Africa, meanwhile, has talked of pride and honor in the last few days. Unless it wins (and probably big) and gets a victory by Uruguay or Mexico to help overcome its negative goal difference, South Africa will become the first host nation to exit in the first round. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira predicted he would make about five changes, notably a goalkeeping change brought about by a suspension, so if nothing else we will get to see some new faces on both sides.
And regarding the other, more significant game:
Mexico are soon to take on Uruguay in Rustenberg in a clash to determine who will finish top of Group A.
Both teams are on 4 pts each, having drawn their opening matches and then quite-convincingly having bested opponents in their second matches – Uruguay beating the hosts 3-0 and Mexico fresh from thumping France 2-0.
(That match prompted Nicholas Anelka to abuse his manager in a manner that would have caused huge outrage in American sports, which got Anelka sent home, which in turn caused the French team to go on strike, which then prompted the French sports minister to blast the team as a “moral disaster.” Here’s hoping the next few days reap some equally entertaining headlines following this match.)
Mexico and Uruguay need just a draw to put both of them through to the next round – Uruguay for the first time in 20 years – with many fearing they will conspire to do just that, in a repeat of the notorious West Germany-Austria match from 1982, which was a treat for fans of the backward pass:
However, Mexico coach Javier Aguirre has denied this. Both teams have played some positive football so far, and it is more likely each will be going for the win to avoid the likely winners of Group B, Diego Maradona’s ominous-looking Argentina.