There are obvious benefits to keeping opponents in the dark before a game as important as a World Cup group opener, but not many coaches do the same with their own players.
That explains the total confusion surrounding the team and the formation likely to start against Uruguay in Group A's opening round on Friday. After six years of sticking to a 4-2-3-1 system, to the extent that he even fielded defensive midfield pair
"You can't turn up before a World Cup still learning a new system the coach has just invented,"
Domenech insisted that the withdrawal of holding midfielder
"Ribery should sacrifice himself for the team and play on the right so Malouda could play [further forward] on the left,"
France tried the new system in three pre-tournament friendlies, winning one, drawing one and losing the last, embarrassingly, to China, ranked 84th in the world. The system highlighted a range of weaknesses: a right flank of
Domenech has named
Henry may yet get a chance because Anelka, preparing for his first World Cup appearance (he was famously on the Eurostar train when France played the 1998 final), has looked ill at ease at center forward. "I prefer playing behind [the center forward]. Deep down I think I don't have the mentality of a goal scorer," Anelka admitted to the newspaper
Domenech's decision to leave out
Benzema and Arsenal's
All of these problems will delight Uruguay coach
Tabarez invited Mombaerts to watch his team train, and the pair had lunch together before Uruguay beat Israel 4-1. "I don't mind Eric seeing what we can do," he told local reporters. "We know how capable we are. It will be up to them to stop us."
This feeling of doom and gloom is not new to France before a World Cup. In 1998, there were calls for coach