Ribéry fails to build on Diaby platform

On the side of a flyover in Cape Town, as the motorway slithers down to one of the world's great waterfronts, is an electronic tally of the number of goals scored in what in South Africa they refer to as the "Mother City". The day after the opening game at Green Point, it was still reading zero.

When he came to explain why for the third successive time a French World Cup campaign had started unconvincingly, Raymond Domenech's microphone failed to work, although the journalists in the stadium's press room had a fair idea of what the France manager was going to say. As his team limped towards the World Cup, he developed a mantra. "I was pleased with the movement, the spirit and organisation," he would say, as repetitively as Sven Goran Eriksson used to mouth the words "First half good, second half not so good" in his time with England.

Before the tournament began, England's route seemed to lead directly towards a meeting with the French in Cape Town. On Friday night's evidence it's not a quarter-final they would fear.

France, however, have passed this way before. Their last World Cup began with a goalless stalemate against Switzerland and continued with a 1-1 draw against South Korea. In their final group match, in Cologne, they were being held 0-0 by Togo until the old hands, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, came to their rescue. Vieira has gone – when Domenech decided that the man who had anchored the French midfield through three World Cups did not merit a place in South Africa, he neglected to tell him – and Henry, much to the annoyance of some of his team-mates, began on the bench.

So, too, did Florent Malouda, though the Chelsea forward denied it was because of a row with stand-in captain Patrice Evra over some overly aggressive tackling on the practice pitches at Knysna that infuriated the Manchester United defender. "I committed two fouls and everyone became a little upset," was how Malouda described the incident. "But I wasn't left out because of that. The manager wanted a second holding midfielder against Uruguay. It was his choice and you have to accept it."

Domenech's preference for Abou Diaby was an inspired decision on an uninspired evening. Arsène Wenger, who watched as a commentator, said there were similarities between Diaby and Vieira, and they did not seem too fanciful. One pass summed up France's evening; a long ball from Diaby that seemed certain to set up Sidney Govou until Nicolas Anelka intercepted it and promptly found himself offside.

Domenech's two marquee players, Anelka and Franck Ribéry, floundered. The Chelsea striker proved unable to link up with his midfield while Ribéry produced one flash of early brilliance that all but presented Govou with a gaping goal, then disappeared.

After the scandal over underage call-girls that enveloped him as his season with Bayern Munich reached its climax and the spiteful tackle on Lisandro that cost him his place in the European Cup final, there are few who need this World Cup more than Ribéry and few who possess his talent to impose himself on it. Ribéry, the man who drove France to Berlin past Spain, Brazil and Portugal in 2006, came late to football. At the age when Lionel Messi was winning the European Cup, he was helping out his dad as a builder in Boulogne. There may not be a third World Cup for him; and some swift rebuilding is what France require now.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks