World Cup: Reputations crumble as England, France fear elimination
Durban: The 2010 FIFA World Cup has thrown up many surprises so far but plenty may still lie in store as 1998 world champions France and one of the favourite teams to win the coveted title this year, England, may have to pack their bags and fly back home even before the second round.
While France are in danger of being eliminated after failing to win either of their first two games, England team, on the other hand, may have to get their act together if they do not want to earn the dubious distinction of becoming the first English team to be eliminated from the first round in 50 years.
England`s World Cup campaign is in tatters with crisis meetings, furious fans, misfiring strikers and splits in the camp and a win against Slovenia on Wednesday is their only hope of salvation.
In less than two weeks, England have gone from talented contenders to sulking underachievers, presenting unfashionable newcomers Slovenia with a chance to top the standings and revel in the sinking their famous Group C rivals.
Typically, the England camp insists all is well, the players are united and fully behind their coach Fabio Capello, but the worst-kept secret is that the Italian`s team selection and strict adherence to a 4-4-2 formation is troubling the squad.
Capello keeps his cards close to his chest but could move captain Steven Gerrard into an attacking role in support of troubled striker Wayne Rooney, with Joe Cole brought into the midfield to replace misfiring marksman Emile Heskey.
Jamie Carragher, who came in for the injured Ledley King, misses the game through suspension and will be replaced by Matthew Upson in the centre of defence.
France, champions in 1998 and runners-up in 2006, need an unlikely result in Bloemfontein to salvage some of their tarnished reputation after being pilloried by their domestic press and politicians as spoilt, overpaid brats.
The scandal, which was sparked by Nicolas Anelka being sent home for insulting coach Raymond Domenech, deepened on Monday when Domenech said some of the rebels might be unwilling to even play on Tuesday.
Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot, dispatched by President Nicolas Sarkozy to try to end the shambles, told the players they had tarnished the nation`s image.
Iberian sides restored some European pride on Monday in a tournament so far dominated by Latin America.