France is struggling for leadership and confidence with four days remaining before its opening World Cup group game against Uruguay.
Coach Raymond Domenech's team looks rudderless in comparison to 2006 when it united behind Zinedine Zidane's inspired leadership to reach the final.
Former captain Thierry Henry is on the bench and Patrice Evra was only recently given the armband.
There is mounting expectation that the current crop of players is bound to flop, and winger Sidney Govou says that France will only improve by pulling together quickly.
"We're lacking this little something for us to be a good team, a very good team," Govou said Monday. "This won't happen if we shoot each other down, putting the blame on such and such."
Some critics, like former France defender Marcel Desailly, are predicting the worst for Domenech's team.
Desailly played alongside Zidane when France won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship two years later.
A decade on, he is an outspoken media pundit. In his newspaper column for a South Africa's Sunday Times, he drew bleak and unfavorable comparisons with the team of four years ago. Desailly even predicted Domenech's team would not qualify from the group stage. Mexico and host South Africa are also in Group A.
"In 2006, the spine of the team was Fabien Barthez, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry _ experienced players," Desailly wrote. "The young generation should be bringing enthusiasm but it's just not there."
Desailly questions the wisdom of Domenech's sudden decision to switch from a defensive 4-2-3-1 formation to a more attacking 4-3-3 lineup only two weeks ago, suggesting it was arranged too hastily and has confused the players.
"They are now at the end of their preparation and should be at their best, but I'm annoyed that we still don't have a starting lineup and are undecided over tactics," said Desailly, who played 116 times for France. "A team that's going to win the World Cup should already know these things. You need a team of leaders to win the World Cup."
France has been regularly criticized since going out of the European Championship two years ago without winning a match.
"I won't say we're used to it, but we haven't had it easy for two years. We're living with it," Govou said. "We're getting criticized quite a lot and it's not easy, so we try and gain strength from within the squad."