France, the 2006 finalists and 1998 champions, look more likely to repeat their World Cup experience of 2002 on current form, when they failed to make it beyond the group stage or even score a goal.
In their penultimate warm up before making their tournament debut on June 11 in Group A against Uruguay, France struggled to a 1-1 draw with lowly Tunisia on Sunday.
Under-fire manager Raymond Domenech played what must be close to his first team (Lloris; Sagna, Gallas, Abidal, Evra; Toulalan, Gourcuff, Govou, Malouda; Ribery, Anelka) with Thierry Henry coming on for Ribery at half time. Nonetheless, one report described France as “boring, slow and weary – even the immensely talented Gourcuff looks like a poor imitation of the player who shone for Bordeaux.”
France appeared to lack a clear tactical plan and at times appeared utterly rudderless, and they have one last dress rehearsal, against China on Friday, before the competition proper gets underway.
Their current form is so abject, however, and the criticism of their coach so intense, that there might be a few around the French team secretly thinking that perhaps it would have better had Thierry Henry not handballed them into the finals. At least that way they wouldn’t have to endure the prospect of humilation that looms before them.
As for France’s chances of failing to get out of their group, there is a tradition of big teams fluffing their lines on opening day: Italy drawing with Bulgaria in 1986, Argentina losing to Cameroon in 1990, Germany struggled to a 1-0 victory over Bolivia in 1994 and France themselves losing to Senegal in 2002.