D-day for SA, France


South Africa will make five changes for their final Group A match against France today with coach Carlos Alberto Parreira promising an attacking approach to a game they must win handsomely.
Kickoff is 4pm.
He also told a news conference yesterday 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.
The impending early exit of the host nation, and the impact on the World Cup, has been overshadowed in the last few days by a French players’ strike over the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka, who refused to apologise for allegedly swearing at his coach.
“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.
“When the French players enter the field, they will be watched by the whole world. They know it is important to win.”
France have the same mathematical possibility of qualifying as Bafana Bafana. Both sides have a single point and are relying on there being a winner in today’s match between group leaders Mexico and Uruguay, who are on four points apiece.
A draw between Mexico and Uruguay would put those two teams through but the South Africa coach believes they both want a win to avoid the possibility of playing Argentina in the next round.
“I’m sure the players will not make a deal. But our problem is to go and win our game and hope the other result is good for us,” said Parreira.
He added that he would field an attacking lineup but would not give details of the changes until he had informed his players overnight.
“I have my mind made up. The team is already set,” he said.
Two changes are enforced by suspension but Parreira is expected to introduce new wing backs and more attacking players in midfield.
If the ploy fails, South Africa will become the first World Cup nation to fail to get past the first round, a prospect Parreira claimed would be disappointing but not a failure.
He insisted South Africa had been handed a tougher group than most previous World Cup hosts.
“It was always going to happen one day. There have already been a long list of firsts in this tournament. Look at how difficult (this World Cup) has been not only for South Africa but for the other powerhouses too.”
France, who also have one point from two games, arrive in Bloemfontein with even greater problems.
Dismal performances in their goalless opener with Uruguay and subsequent 2-0 loss against Mexico, preceded internal rows that have left Les Bleus in disarray.
First, striker Nicolas Anelka was expelled from the squad after he refused to apologise for insulting coach Raymond Domenech during the half-time break of the match with Mexico.
Then on Sunday, on the eve of France’s departure for Bloemfontein, the players walked out of a training session at their Knysna base camp, in protest of the Chelsea striker’s expulsion.
It remains to be seen if France will be able to find some semblance of team cohesion for the game in Bloemfontein.
As for the line-up, besides Anelka, who could be replaced up front by Thierry Henry, France will also be missing midfielder Jeremy Toulalan, who is suspended.
Bordeaux’s Yohann Gourcuff, whose exclusion by Domenech against Mexico was criticised by Zinedine Zidane among others, could be recalled to the team in his playmaking role.