Dave Johnson is the play-by-play voice of D.C. United for Comcast SportsNet. Dave will be contributing to our coverage of the World Cup, including this report, filed while Dave is "on vacation" in France.
By Dave Johnson
Paris, France---Allez les Bleusor not. The World Cup is now coming to life, but France, one of the tourney's proud former champions, is just about dead.
With the Eiffel Tower as a back drop, french supporters gathered by the tens of thousands to watch the France-Mexico match on a big screen. At kick-off the Parisian sky was awash with a symphony of pastel colors in the fading daylight.
With each Mexican goal darkness set in. For supporters of Les Bleus it was passion mixed with resignation. For those fans, there was the desire for France to win mixed with a frustration of supporting a team they really dont like.
Les Imposteurs screamed the headline in the Friday edition of Frances sports daily LEquipe. Indigne shouted another headline in a French newspaper. The headlines captured the collective hand waving and head shaking by the French in the wake of the 2-0 loss to Mexico.
Frances very appearance in South Africa is wrapped in controversy. Thierry Henry got away with a hand ball in the decisive goal in a playoff win over Ireland that secured passage to these finals.
It was ironic then that Henry was a mere spectator on the bench for a team sorely in need of his attacking creativity minus the use of his hand. Of course it was Henry who months ago questioned coach Raymond Domenech when he said France did not know how to play, where to be on the pitch and how to organize.
It is far cry from France 98 when the French team united a nation by winning it all or even Germany 2006 when they still made the finals before losing to Italy on penalty kicks.
It is like the lyrics from Don Henleys Boys of Summer. I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. A little voice inside my head said dont look back you can never look back.
Here in France they can only look back, because the French were saddled with team that did not know the way forward.
To talk of France's shortcomings is not to take away from Mexicos win. Mexico continues to mature at the World Cup. Javier Aguires team mixed the flair the Mexicans are known for with a steely resolve to secure the match.
Mexico has lost more games over the years at the World Cup finals than any other nation. It is both a compliment and a criticism. To lose that many games, Mexico has had to consistently qualify, but they have also consistently underachieved.
Mexicos lack of success on the big stage has been blamed on the economic success of the Mexican professional league. The countrys national team stars have always earned big bucks at home and have not had to transfer to European club football where they would have been tested against the best in the world on a consistent basis.
Recently Mexicans have started to leave the comfort of home and Thursday night, an astounding eight of the teams starting eleven played for European clubs. Mexico's captain yesterday, Rafael Marquez, has won two Champions League titles while playing for one of the world's best clubs in FC Barcelona.
Now Mexico has a chance to win Group A, but will need to beat Uruguay in its final first round match. The two teams each have four points in the standings but Uruguay has the edge on goal-difference.
Mexico and Uruguay will certainly have plenty of incentive to win the group since the second place finisher will likely have to meet Argentina in the second round. In 2006 Mexico was eliminated in the round of 16 by the Argentines, thanks to Maxi Rodriguezs sensational extra-time goal.