Abidal looks back to the future for France

KNYSNA (AFP) - France, who failed to set the World Cup alight with their opening goalless draw with Uruguay, must win their next Group A fixture against Mexico, defender Eric Abidal says.

KNYSNA (AFP) - France, who failed to set the World Cup alight with their opening goalless draw with Uruguay, must win their next Group A fixture against Mexico, defender Eric Abidal says.

"Against Mexico we have to play for a win and nothing less," the Barcelona player insisted on Sunday.

He suggested France's less than convincing World Cup start, which came after group rivals South Africa and Mexico had drawn 1-1 on Friday's first day of action, in Group A, bore similarities with the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Eric Abidal is seen through the screen of a camcorder during a press conference in Knysna on June 13, 2010 during the 2010 World Cup football tournament in South Africa.
Eric Abidal is seen through the screen of a camcorder during a press conference in Knysna on June 13, 2010 during the 2010 World Cup football tournament in South Africa.

"In 2006 it was the same, we began with a 0-0 draw with Switzerland, but slowly but surely victories followed victories," with France making it all the way to the final itself where they were to lose out to Italy.

"We have to be able to step up a gear and make it out of the first round," added Abidal, who with his fellow defenders succeeded in keeping a clean sheet in Friday's opener in contrast to their warm-up matches en route to South Africa.

But he warned his teammates that Mexico "are potentially stronger than Uruguay".

Reflecting on Friday's stalemate in Cape Town he said: "One goal would have seen us okay. At this high level it comes down to small details."

He insisted that he and his teammates had not taken underfire manager Raymond Domenech's decision not to start Florent Malouda as a punishment after a reported training ground bust up between the Chelsea midfielder and the coach.

"We don't regard it like that. 'Flo' didn't start in the game, but then again neither did 'Titi' (Thierry Henry).

"They paid the price for the two formations we played (4-3-3 in the warm-ups and 4-2-3-1 in South Africa).

"Flo did really well when he came on (in the 75th minute in Cape Town), one has to be positive at the chance to be at the World Cup.

Abidal was then asked whether Henry, France's all time top scorer with 51 goals from 122 games, accepted his new role as 'joker de luxe' or 'super sub'.

He replied: "I don't know if he readily accepts his role, he has such a big experience with the France team, and went through a difficult last six months at Barcelona.

"But he's a professional to the end and will do everything for the team, his approach is founded on that principle.

"He remains focussed and good with us, the crucial thing is to win together."

France took time out Sunday to visit a township near their five-star World Cup base camp, but managed to avoid a similar visit by French sports minister Rama Yade.

Yade caused a stir last week when she attacked the national team's choice of luxury lodgings in the present harsh economic climate.

"Whether she will be there (in the township) or not it's the same, we're not going there with the aim of meeting Rama Yade," said Abidal.

France will hold their first public training session on Monday to comply with a FIFA regulation that stipulates each country must hold one open session during the competition.

France's initial foray into the 2010 World Cup meanwhile has left their fans back home less than convinced.

A poll conducted after Friday's game found that 81 percent of those questioned were "not convinced" by Les Bleus' performance, with 70 percent criticising Domenech's team selection and 79 percent not feeling "close" to the team.

Mexico face 1998 winners France on Thursday, while South Africa take on Uruguay 24 hours earlier.

Other news