No fearing France
Mexico are going through to the last 16 at France's expense - according to FanZoner Niall Geoghegan.
Last Updated: 17/06/10 3:00pm
So the World Cup has been a bit of a bore so far?
I'm sure those not utterly engrossed in all things football think so, I'm sure those watching purely to see Brazil stuff 16 past some second-rate nation think so, in fact, I'm sure quite a lot of the world think so. Yet I still find the whole thing utterly absorbing, even if the nets are bulging less frequently than ever before.
What needs to be understood is that Germany steamrolling Australia by four is about the biggest thrashing we'll get this summer. Gone are the days of a bemused Zaire defender seeing a free ball 10 yards in front of him and running to boot it downfield, unaware that it's a Brazil free kick and he's about to be booked for his crass misunderstanding.
Even the weaker nations are clued up nowadays, even a supposedly hopeless North Korea side frustrated the world's finest footballers for almost an hour, and, unfortunately for those wanting some good, old-fashioned drubbings, the likes of New Zealand, Honduras and Greece aren't going to go gung-ho and leave themselves vulnerable to a hammering.
And in the same way that cup finals and play-off matches are usually tight affairs, the importance of these games - the fact that some nations have waited years for this tremendous occasion - means that no side is going to self-destruct by throwing the kitchen sink at the opposition from the first whistle.
As for my Mexicans, the opening game was, strangely, given my ridiculous inability to get remotely close to predicting the outcome of a game, just as I expected.
We were good - we knocked the ball around impressively, we kept it on the floor, perhaps not creating as many chances as our possession warranted but still enough to have taken the initiative in the first half. And then, typically, we conceded first.
South Africa had always looked threatening on the counter, and it was an incisive break from the home side that gave them the lead, with Siphiwe Tshabalala hitting the sweetest of strikes to send Johannesburg into a state of absolute delirium.
We deserved something from the game and eventually got it thanks to the ever-reliable Rafael Marquez, and although there was a slight grievance that we didn't win the game, the goalless draw in the Uruguay game the same night highlighted two things: firstly, that the group was still wide open for us to win, and secondly, that Thursday's opponents, France, aren't very good.
It's a suspicion I've had for a while, ever since Zinedine Zidane bowed out with THAT headbutt. The French national team have looked to be ageing for a while - Nicolas Anelka, William Gallas and Thierry Henry are all over 30, with the latter in particular looking a shadow of the player he once was.
There's still something about Franck Ribery which doesn't quite thrill me, meaning the only Frenchman I can see truly lighting up this World Cup is the wonderful Yoann Gourcuff.
France's insipid display in Cape Town last Friday underlined the shortcomings they appeared to demonstrate when outplayed by Ireland in qualification - they lack fluidity, invention and, it always appears, a sense of unity.
So my lack of love for the French leads me not only to think that they may struggle to make it through the group, but that we'll be the side to win it.
Optimistic perhaps, but it's optimism with justification, taking into account the performances of both sides in the opening matches.
There's no doubting our ability to retain possession and play nice football, but we need to turn that possession into chances and those chances into goals, otherwise we'll be left to rue a talented bunch of players who have the potential to go far in this competition falling at the first hurdle, and that would be doing a massive injustice to this nicely-groomed side.
France lack a lot of things but they still boast a defensive solidity that we may struggle to break down, meaning we'll need more dimensions to our attacking play other than slick, penetrative football, as if that fails, we need have a backup plan in the form of being able to force one over the line from a corner (or something similarly elegant).
Mexico remind me of Arsenal - the passing is intricate, pleasant and occasionally breathtaking but it too often comes to no avail. Arsenal have never quite got it right and it always ends in crushing disappointment, so let's hope the similarities end at the style of football.
If we get it right, don't be surprised to see Mexico well on their way to the last 16 and France well on their way back to Paris.