POLOKWANE, June 18 – Embattled France coach Raymond Domenech admitted on Thursday that his star-studded, crisis-hit team desperately need a World Cup miracle after slumping to a 2-0 defeat to Mexico.France, the 1998 world champions and 2006 runners-up, were left with just a point from their first two Group A matches and are three behind Uruguay and Mexico who meet next Tuesday.
France need to beat South Africa in their final game on the same day, and then hope the mathematics of qualification works in their favour.
But the controversial Domenech, who steps down and will be replaced by Laurent Blanc after the World Cup, is not holding out too much hope of his team making the second round.
"We need a miracle," admitted Domenech. "We have to be strong and at least play for our honour. At least we must show something in the last match. When we are forced to rely on others, there’s nothing to say."
Veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco converted a late penalty to clinch Mexico’s first victory over France after substitute striker, Manchester United-bound Javier Hernandez, had put the Central Americans ahead in the 64th minute.
France, who controversially reached the World Cup finals after Thierry Henry’s handball set up the decisive goal in a play-off win over Ireland, struggled to create any meaningful opportunities against a vibrant Mexican team.
"I don’t have the words, it’s a real disappointment for all of the people and for those who believed in us," added Domenech.
"If we had the answers then we could have done something about it. We had good intentions and desire. I feel just like all of the fans, all the French people. It’s more than just a disappointment."
France captain Patrice Evra admitted his team were just not good enough.
"We are not a great team," said the Manchester United defender. "It’s a catastrophe, that’s all we can say.
"When you are knocked out of the European championship in the first round and you are also capable of being knocked out in the first round of the World Cup, you just don’t want to think about football after that."
Mexico striker Hernandez, 22, said victory will make the whole of his country proud.
"I am happy for so many reasons. Not just for my goal or for the man of the match award, but also because the victory brings so much joy to Mexico," said Hernandez.
"But this win is just a first step. There’s a long way to go. We are not thinking yet about the match with Uruguay – we want to make the most of this for the moment."
Skipper Rafael Marquez warned Mexico they could not let the win go to their heads.
"We have to keep our feet on the ground despite this win," the Barcelona defender said.
Coach Javier Aguirre added: "It was very important to beat France – they are after all the vice-world champions. We turned in a very fine performance – but we are not yet mathematically through.
Meanwhile, French legend Zinedine Zidane, a member of the title-winning side from 12 years ago, but who was also red-carded in the 2006 final, believes Domenech got his selection wrong.
Zidane insisted that Domenech blundered by demoting Yoann Gourcuff to the bench, depriving the side of a creative spark.
"The coach made the decision but I don’t agree with it," Zidane told Mexican television station Televisa.
"I am disappointed because France did not have a single shot on goal and that should be the least to be expected. Tonight the best team won.
"France did not play well, but they were against a very good team. Mexico were superior to France especially physically."