A big win against a scandal-hit France side on Tuesday might not be enough for South Africa to meet a nation’s wild expectations but is the only way they might avoid making unwanted history.
Victory with plenty of goals could save South Africa from becoming the first World Cup hosts not to reach the second round, providing Mexico and Uruguay do not settle for a draw that would put both of them through to the knockout stage.
South Africa’s promising start in their opening 1-1 draw with Mexico were short-lived and a 3-0 defeat by Uruguay soon exposed Bafana Bafana’s obvious limitations.
One of the weakest sides in the finals, at least on paper, South Africa can at least count on a partisan vuvuzela drone to fire them up from the stands of the Free State stadium. At the other end will be France, who also have a point from two games, with brilliant individuals incapable of behaving as a team and their morale crushed by the Nicolas Anelka saga.
“France are coming into the game looking to win, hoping like us that they can still go through but we’ve decided not to concern ourselves with them, just to go out and play and win for our people, our fans,” said the hosts’ fullback Tsepo Masilela.
Missing from the France lineup will be Anelka, sent home in disgrace on Saturday after insulting coach Raymond Domenech at halftime of the 2-0 defeat by Mexico last week in Polokwane.
The France players, under a cloud of fan and media criticism since their Euro 2008 flop, have a long way to go to redeem themselves.
Distrustful of the outside world off the pitch and totally lost on it so far, they did nothing to boost their popularity when they boycotted training in support of Anelka on Sunday.
South Africa will make five changes for their match against France, with coach Carlos Alberto Parreira promising an attacking approach to a game they must win handsomely.
He also told a news conference on Monday the hosts do not expect to gain any advantage from the turmoil in the France camp for a match in which both sides need a comfortable margin of victory to stand any chance of reaching the second round.
“We don’t consider this a positive aspect in any way,” said Parreira. “We expect France to come out and play. We know the French have had long standing problems in their camp, even from before the World Cup, but what has happened over the last two days we don’t expect to carry over to the pitch.”
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