Monday, November 29, 1999

France lose to Mexico and face early exit

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France were threatened by an embarrassing early World Cup exit after a surprise 2-0 defeat to Mexico in their second Group A game on Thursday.Substitute forward Javier Hernandez beat an offside trap, raced into the box unchallenged and twisted his way past France keeper Hugo Lloris to put Mexico ahead on 64 minutes.Veteran forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco doubled the advantage from the penalty spot on 79 minutes after Pablo Barrera was brought down by Eric Abidal.The 1998 champions have just one point from two games before facing hosts South Africa in their final pool game next week. Even a win might not be enough for them to qualify and escape another disaster after their Euro 2008 flop.Uruguay and Mexico, who top the group with four points each, will both qualify if they draw next week, eliminating in the process France and South Africa, both on one point.Asked what his team could do now, France winger Florent Malouda: "Save our pride"."It's shameful to lose like that," he told French television channel TF1. "We can't leave a tournament without winning a match."France were outplayed for the first 45 minutes during which they did not create a single chance. Mexico, by contrast, came close to scoring on several occasions, first when forward Carlos Vela raced into the box unchallenged early on but missed the target.The France fans shivered again on 19 minutes when full back Carlos Salcido fired just wide from the edge of the box. The same player threatened again eighth minutes later, shooting straight at Lloris from close range.France were hardly better in the second half, although they did have a chance on 54 minutes when a shot from just outside the area by Malouda flew narrowly over the bar.That was far from enough, however, and coach Raymond Domenech's men, who have frustrated their fans with uninspiring performances for years, can expect a stiff challenge against South Africa next Tuesday in Bloemfontein.With their fate out of their hands, they will have to face that match without holding midfielder Jeremy Toulalan, who will be suspended after picking his second yellow card of the tournament.(Editing by Michael Holden. To comment on this story email
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