Troubled France tackle Mexico in a crucial Group A Polokwane showdown on Thursday desperate for a win that would raise morale.
Les Bleus (The Blues) have reached two of the last three finals, crushing Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 Paris climax with Zinedine Zidane scoring twice and losing a penalty shootout to Italy in Berlin four years ago.
But the French looked anything but potential finalists in Cape Town last Friday as they ground out a goalless draw with 10-man Uruguay.
It has placed coach Raymond Domenech in a position he knows only too well — under public and media pressure — and even the weather has not been kind to the man who will be replaced by former star Laurent Blanc after the WC.
The Western Cape where France camp at a resort is notorious for delivering all four seasons within 24 hours and downpours have transformed the pitch into a sodden mess.
Fellow finalists Denmark refused Domenech permission to use their facilities in the area so France had to carry on in less than perfect conditions.
A win over Mexico and they would have one foot in the second round ahead of their final mini-league fixture against South Africa on June 22.
But a loss could prove catastrophic as it would probably leave the 2000 Euro champs needing maximum points against the hosts in the most intimidating cauldron to have any hope of survival.
Outwardly at least, the squad seem unperturbed by poor warm-up results that led to a loss to non-qualifiers China on the island of Reunion, govt criticism of the luxury resort, and the drab draw with Uruguay.
Defender Eric Abidal came straight to the point when quizzed about Polokwane: “We have to play for a win against Mexico and nothing less.”
“We have to step up a gear and make it out of the first round,” said Abidal ahead of the second match staged at 46,000-seat Peter Mokaba Stadium, one of five purpose-built World Cup venues.