New Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez enhanced his burgeoning
reputation with the opening goal as Mexico took a significant step towards
qualification from Group A and hastened France's early exit at the Peter Mokaba
Stadium in Polokwane.
Just nine minutes after coming off the bench the 22-year-old, who will
officially move to Old Trafford from Chivas in a £7million deal next month,
sprang the offside trap to race on to Rafael Marquez's pass, round goalkeeper
Hugo Lloris and coolly slot home.
Veteran striker and cult hero Cuauhtemoc Blanco sealed victory with a
It was Mexico's first win over France at senior level and no less than they
deserved after a performance full of vigour and attacking invention.
For the French, winners on home soil in 1998 and runners-up four years ago, the
prospect of ignominious failure looms large - as it did at Euro 2008 when they
failed to progress from their group.
Captain Patrice Evra may have shed a tear during the playing of La Marseillaise
but there would have been many more Frenchman crying into their sauvignon blanc
after another disappointing performance from Les Bleus.
The Manchester United defender had dismissed claims of disharmony within the
camp at the pre-match press conference.
But everything about the team's demeanour spoke volumes: from the substitutes
with what appeared to be tartan picnic rugs over their legs like a geriatrics'
outing to coach Raymond Domenech's return to the dug-out a good minute before
his players came out of the tunnel for the second half.
Most of the fluid, attacking football was played by Mexico, particularly before
Uruguay's win over South Africa last night to go top of the group had increased
the pressure on both sides but they responded with some refreshingly open, if
not decisive, play.
Early on Franck Ribery's 35-yard free-kick bounced in front of Oscar Perez but,
unlike Algeria's Faouzi Chaouchi who blundered on this semi-artificial pitch on
Sunday, the Mexico goalkeeper collected easily.
But whereas France were restricted to set-pieces, Mexico looked dangerous from
open play. Marquez's ball over the top saw three team-mates set off in pursuit; Arsenal's Carlos Vela reached it first but could not keep his 12-yard volley down.
Former West Ham striker Guillermo Franco was no closer when he all-too-easily
turned William Gallas on the edge of the penalty area.
Mexico left-back Carlos Salcido twice went close, drilling wide of Lloris'
left-hand post and then shooting straight at the goalkeeper.
Even the loss of Vela, being watched by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, to injury
just after the half-hour did not interrupt the North Americans' fluency as
substitute Pablo Barrera was straight into the action when Lloris punched
Salcido's cross against him and was fortunate to see the ball bounce wide.
Giovani dos Santos flashed a shot wide before Jeremy Toulalan was booked in
added time, ruling him out of France's final group match against South Africa.
The second half began with Andre Pierre Gignac coming on for Nicolas Anelka and
Chelsea team-mate Florent Malouda, restored to the starting line-up at the
expense of Yoann Gourcuff, having a shot tipped over by Perez.
But the introduction of Hernandez for Efrain Juarez soon after had an almost
immediate impact. His pace took him clear of the defence and his talent did the rest.
When Abidal brought down Barrera, Blanco side-footed home from the spot to
spark wild Mexican celebrations.
A draw against Uruguay on Tuesday will put both sides through and send France
home, irrespective of their result against the hosts.