| Ronaldinho battles for the ball with Croatia’s Srna. Brazil won the match 1-0. (Reuters)
Frankfurt, June 13: When the French can’t do it, bring on the Indian ' of sorts.
But even he couldn’t do it. Coming on as substitute in the 84th minute, Vikash Dhorasoo, of Indian parentage, shot wide in what was to be France’s last chance to score in the match just as added time was about to begin after the regulation 90 minutes.
Once-mighty France was held to a 0-0 draw by its neighbour and footballing nonentity Switzerland, going goalless in the World Cup since the 1998 final it won against Brazil.
It was Switzerland, and not France, which missed the best chance of the game on 65 minutes with a header from close range by substitute midfielder Daniel Gygax that goalkeeper Fabien Barthez somehow managed to save with his foot.
In the day’s first match, South Korea was given an almighty scare by Togo, another minnow, before a second-half revival earned it a 2-1 victory.
The winner came as late as the 72nd minute after Togo had been reduced to 10 men.
Togo went for the Koreans in lively fashion, just as Ghana had done yesterday against Italy before poor shooting left it down 2-0 in the end.
Italian coach Marcello Lippi wasn’t just being gracious in victory when he said: “Our opponents showed themselves to be as strong as we thought they would be. In certain aspects they were better than us.”
South Korea survived the scare, coming back from behind. Japan didn’t. That time the underdogs, Australia, came from behind to win 3-1.
“We pretty much shocked the world yesterday with that win,” Australian assistant coach Graham Arnold said.
There haven’t been too many upsets ' of big teams ' so far but for the soccer superpowers life hasn’t been easy.
One such big team, Spain, opens its campaign tomorrow. Known as the world’s number one underachiever, it plays against Ukraine, first-timers in the World Cup.
Spain has played in eight World Cups without ever getting close to the title ' the best being fourth. It will also be the last World Cup for veteran Raul, the Real Madrid striker.
Raul, in his third World Cup, is carrying an injury to his left knee and may not play tomorrow.
In the other match of the group, billed as the Arab derby, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia face each other. You could even have called it a Brazil versus Brazil match had Tunisia’s France-based striker Francileudo Dos Santos played. The Brazilian-born player is not expected to be fit before the second match.
Tunisia’s rival hopes its team of 11 Brazilians, all working off the pitch, will hand the “sons of the desert” victory.
Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta, who only took over late last year, has brought in assistant coaches, physiologists and fitness trainers to help prepare the Saudi team.
The coach and his support team don’t play the game and no one expects Saudi Arabia to go beyond the group stage, but this World Cup has shown there are no easy matches, except if you’re playing against the US.
It’s the best-protected team with countless hundreds of German police watching every step. But the Americans could not guard their own goal with anywhere near the same level of efficiency in their 3-0 defeat by the Czech Republic.
They have given underdogs a bad name.