At the time of writing, no-one has a clue as to the side Raymond Domenech will field in their final group encounter against the hosts. Nicolas Anelka has been sent home for insulting the French coach; Patrice Evra clashed with their fitness coach; whilst it is believed that the whole squad has been divided over Domenech’s morals and squad selection. These farcial occurences are something that the Bafana Bafana’s will look to take advantage of in their slim quest for qualification.
South Africa’s form in this event has been nothing short of indifferent. Despite an awful performance against Uruguay, the hosts’ showcased individual flashes of brilliance in their opener – notably that goal from Tshabalala. In stark contrast, France’s form has been nothing short of diabolical. Some would argue that they do not even deserve to be in South Africa following the circumstances of their victory over Ireland, but whilst their performance against Uruguay was drab, their attitude towards the Mexican encounter was truly awful.
Perhaps the weakest area in the side is their attacking presence – or lack of – which has seen a total of zero goals scored thus far. Franck Ribery has made less of an impact than largely expected, Anelka has been sent home, and, most surprisingly, hitman Thierry Henry has barely featured. Domenech is likely to alter his starting line-up with the inclusion of Cisse or Pierre-Gignac, two of the lesser-known ‘stars’. Despite their capitulation against Uruguay, South Africa’s defence have been fairly strong throughout and the likes of Mokoena and Gaxa should face few problems.
Carlos Parreira is likely to start with a similar side to the one that was outplayed by Uruguay, although Moeneeb Josephs will start following Khune’s midweek dismissal. Kagisho Dikgacoi will also miss out following his second booking, so expect Sibaya to take his place.
Whilst their team selection is far from evident, one thing that is apparent is the attacking threat of Chelseas’ Florent Malouda. The tricky winger can attack from either flank, and could even be deployed as a second striker against the hosts. Malouda has the ability to run at defenders and get to the byline, although so far no-one has been able to get on the end of his crosses.
All in all, the weekend controversy surrounding the French side is likely to play a huge part in their downfall. A divided camp is hardly inspirational, and I expect this to be evident on the pitch, especially with the hosts so desperate for success.
Prediction: South Africa 1-0 France
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