On the eve of a new World Cup campaign, France are still haunted by their South African nightmares and know that only a win against Honduras in their tournament opener will help banish the painful memories.
“I haven’t understood everything but I heard South Africa,” said French coach Didier Deschamps, fielding questions from reporters ahead of Sunday’s clash at the Beira Rio stadium.
“You shouldn’t mention South Africa. We are now in another World Cup, we are in Brazil. We are not going to be judged by what we did four years ago. What is important is what will take place tomorrow at 4 p.m.”
A win over underdogs Honduras, who are still chasing a first World Cup win, in their group E opener will begin the healing process.
But it would not be enough to erase the stain left on French soccer four years ago when the team returned home in disgrace and disarray after failing to win a game.
Unlike the squabbling, fractured squad in South Africa, the French come to Porto Alegre with a happier, more settled unit under Deschamps, who has set a target of reaching the last 16.
A young French side has brought a refreshing Three Musketeers “all for one, one for all” attitude to Brazil, but captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, a member of the South African meltdown, knows better than most that locker room chemistry can be fickle.
A positive start will be important to maintaining those good feelings.
“I’m not here to compare World Cups or different generations,” said Lloris. “But what is obvious is our training sessions are going well. We are getting ready and everything is going well in the dressing room, on the pitch and outside.
“That is key for the success of the French team.
“You know the balance inside a team is always a bit fragile, and if we get good performances, we get victories, then I am sure everything will remain as it is.
“We start with a clean sheet tomorrow and we are ready.”
The French have much to prove in Brazil after a nailbiting qualifying campaign, and will be wary of a combative Honduran side keen to make their own bit of World Cup history by claiming a first win.
The meeting will be the first between to the two countries, but Deschamps has seen enough of the Hondurans, who displayed bite in battling England to a 0-0 draw in a World Cup warm-up, to approach the match with caution.
“Honduras has an aggressive team, they attack,” said Deschamps, captain of France’s 1998 World Cup-winning team. “The South American team has been playing the same way for the last two years.
“They are quite direct and they know how to defend as well. They play very well as a team, they make effort and have technical skill.
“We prepared as well as possible...both myself and the team are ready. We will be judged by what we do on the pitch and everything will start tomorrow.”