JOHANNESBURG, June 19 – France are worried that Group A rivals Mexico and Uruguay may conspire to achieve the draw that would send both through to the World Cup last 16 at Les Bleus' expense.
Having lost to the Mexicans after drawing with the Uruguayans, France will be eliminated even if they beat hapless South Africa and their rivals play for the draw.
"The worry will be Mexico and Uruguay will draw," reported French sports daily L’Equipe.
If the Mexicans and the Uruguayans do draw to move both countries onto five points that will guarantee they finish clear of the French, who could only manage four if they win their final game.
A similar scenario occurred in 1982 when Germany and Austria played out a dire goalless draw to squeeze out Algeria.
And at Euro 2004, the Swedes and Danes – another pair of neighbours – drew 2-2 to eliminate the furious Italians.
French coach Raymond Domenech insists the conspiracy theory is irrelevant.
"I am not bothered about the others. We have to play and do our thing and the other match is not my problem."
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez insisted there was no need for the French to have such concerns.
"We must not get caught up in speculation and theorising. It is a football match and we are thinking of approaching it as if we were just setting out on the group phase.
"It’s just that now we are in a better situation than our rivals," Tabarez told reporters in Kimberley, 460 km southwest of Johannesburg, in allusion to the fact that a 3-0 win over South Africa has the Uruguayans with a better goal difference than the Mexicans’ after they beat France 2-0.
The subplot is who will finish top of the group as that would mean a potentially easier round of last 16 encounter with the runners-up likely to face an explosive-looking Argentina.
Four years ago in Germany, the Mexicans placed second in their group but then faced the Argentines, who beat them.
Mexico coach Javier Aguirre refused to be drawn on the mathematics.
"We just want to make sure of getting through to the next round. I hope my team are sound and will be strong and solid as they were against France."
Tabarez’s concerns were not the maths of qualifying but the ‘Jabulani’ ball which several teams have decried as being difficult to control with a hard to read trajectory in venues at relatively high altitude.
"It plays very quickly and obviously requires a measure of adaptation – but it is the same ball for everybody," Tabarez said.