POLOKWANE, South Africa (AFP) - France, the 1998 world champions and 2006 runners-up, were left teetering on the brink of World Cup first round elimination on Thursday when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Mexico.
Veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco converted a late penalty to clinch the victory after substitute striker, Manchester United-bound Javier Hernandez, had put the Central Americans ahead 64 minutes into the Group A showdown at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Mexico's first victory over France left them and Uruguay level on four points ahead of a June 22 Rustenburg clash and both will advance to the next round by drawing.
France play South Africa, who have a point each, at the same time in Bloemfontein and if either wins and the other game delivers a positive result, goal difference could come into play.
"We need a miracle now," said France coach Raymond 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."
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.
Hernandez, nicknamed the Little Pea, was ebullient after his goal.
"I am delighted with this victory more so than for my goal or indeed getting the man of the match award.
"We wanted to make the Mexican people happy and this win is a first step for there is a long way to go."
The fourth meeting of the countries in the history of the tournament kicked off in cold conditions before a large colourful crowd with each team making one change from their opening encounter last Friday.
Malouda replaced Yoann Gourcuff in the French line-up while defender Hector Morena came in for Paul Aguilar in the Mexico side.
Saudi Arabian referee Khalil al-Ghamdi stamped his imprint early with a fourth-minute caution for veteran Mexican striker Guillermo Franco amid much protest.
Mexico had a couple of early half chances that were not put away by Carlos Vela and Franco while a slick French free-kick manoeuvre fizzled out as Franck Ribery overhit a cross.
The Central Americans were more threatening as the halfway point of the opening half approached with a William Gallas block taking the sting out of a move and Carlos Salcido firing past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris only to miss the target.
It was Lloris versus Salcido again on 27 minutes with the French goalkeeper doing well to push away a hard, low drive after the Mexican cut in from the left flank helped by timid defending.
Mexico suffered a blow when Vela limped off to be replaced by Pablo Barrera, who put Lloris under pressure almost immediately from a cross that the goalkeeper unconvincingly punched away.
Mexico broke the deadlock on 64 minutes when Hernandez raced on to a lobbed Rafael Marquez pass, rounded Lloris and calmly stroked the ball into the net.
Domenech, who gives way after this tournament to former star Laurent Blanc, stared emotion-less at the action as his side struggled to make an impact up front.
And his worst fears were realised after 79 minutes when Eric Abidal fouled Pablo Berrera and 37-year-old Blanco made a long run before placing a low spot kick wide of Lloris into the corner of the net.
|Coach: R. Domenech|
for N. Anelka 46'
for S. Govou 69'
|Everton profited from ´harsh´ refereeing, claims Delaney|
|We will get much better, Guardiola warns rivals|
|Ibrahimovic turned down €100m China deal - Raiola|
|Everton 1 Crystal Palace 1: Benteke cancels out Lukaku opener|
|Rashford looking to emulate Ronaldo at Manchester United|
|Managers given bad name by Allardyce scandal - Moyes|
|Pagliara claims he lied to Telegraph over bungs|
|Dyche excited by Arsenal challenge|
|Mazzarri wary of unleashing Success until he is fully fit|
|Moyes stands by criticism of players|
|Guardiola marvels at amazing Ryder Cup experience|
|Mathieu and Deschamps ´exchange´ gives Mangala recall|
|Retirement threat just ´erratic´ Tevez being dramatic - Joorabchian|
|Dani Alves wants Champions League glory with Juventus|
|Guardiola: Football fans can enjoy Tottenham|
|Ranieri calls for consistency from Leicester|
|Low missing out on ´dream´ player in Castro - Tuchel|
|Mata: I never had problems with Mourinho|
|Conte wants failures to motivate Chelsea|
|Pochettino rules out ´impossible´ England switch|
|Emery pleased with Ben Arfa attitude|
|Gundogan returns for Germany after lengthy absence|
|Terry out again as Chelsea prepare for Hull|
|Hasselbaink refutes corruption allegations|
|Robben to start against Cologne, suggests Ancelotti|
|Prolific Callejon called into Spain squad|
|Hull City offer ´keeps changing´ - Phelan|
|Krueger: Black allegations do not directly affect Southampton|
|Wenger optimistic over Coquelin recovery|
|Hughes focused after Mourinho backing|
|Wenger open to England job|
|Klopp eyes retirement before 60|
|Wenger the pioneer battles on within his own legacy|
|Lukaku: I am not on Suarez´s level yet|
|Ibrahimovic is tremendous even if he does not score - Mourinho|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Olimpia, Honduras Progreso claim key wins|
|Astra expected hungover Roma - Spalletti|
|United fixture list a ´poisoned gift´ - Mourinho|
|Ronaldo back for ´stronger´ Portugal|
|Dembele can be next Drogba - Rodgers|
|Mourinho wanted Pogba at Chelsea, says Raiola|
|Puel pleased with ´good point´ in Israel|
|Mourinho not ´over the moon´ with United wins|
|Southampton investigating Eric Black allegations|
|Rodgers: Celtic would challenge at the top in England|
|Ibrahimovic expects more from United|
|Manchester United 1 Zorya 0: Ibrahimovic header earns Mourinho´s men narrow win|
|De Boer blasts Inter for lack of focus|
|Zarate reveals message to ill wife after goalscoring return|
|Raffael suffers fresh injury setback|
|Hapoel Be´er Sheva 0 Southampton 0: Saints´ winning run comes to an end|
|Sparta Prague 3 Inter 1: De Boer´s side humbled in Europa League again|
|Police to review corruption allegations after Telegraph sting|
|Brady hails Wenger as ´possibly the best ever´ Gunners boss|
|Yacob signs new West Brom deal|
|Guidolin prioritising Swansea improvement over his future|
|Sakho outburst has been dealt with – Klopp|
|Bilic sorry for Allardyce in ´very sad´ week for English football|
|Laporte saga nears conclusion as defender earns France call-up|
|Everton are exceeding expectations – Koeman|
|Wenger could be tempted by an international offer, says ex-assistant|
|No excuses for Liverpool this time, says Klopp|
|Rashford left out of England Under-21 squad|
|Boro must pick up where they left off - Karanka|
|Matuidi could still join Juventus, says Raiola|
|Pardew anticipates battle of the Belgians|
|Legia Warsaw to face Real Madrid behind closed doors|
|England job would be the pinnacle - Pardew|
|Wright sacked by Barnsley|
|Bilic defends West Ham team night out|
|Ramsey withdrawal was Arsenal´s call - Coleman|
|LMA demand ´immediate full disclosure´ of corruption evidence|
|´My answer would be a big fat no´ - Coleman rules out taking England job|
|Leeds dismiss Cellino sting as ´non-story´|
|Gabigol, Rashford and Sanches among Golden Boy nominees|
|Keane slams Arsenal: Half their players will have gloves on soon|
|´Special´ Man City draw a career highlight, says Gordon|
|Southgate admits England situation is ´not ideal´|
|England should have gone for O´Neill, says Shilton|
|PSG´s powers of recovery impress Cavani|
|Howe ´absolutely committed´ to Bournemouth amid England links|
|Man City proved character against Celtic, says Zabaleta|
|Walcott: Sanchez partnership bodes well for Arsenal´s season|
|MLS Review: DC, Impact on track for play-offs|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Tigres, Dallas left waiting|
|Central Sanchez pleases Wenger|
|Barca felt Messi absence - Busquets|
|Martino knew Messi would come out of retirement|
|Shilton never convinced by Allardyce|
|Degenek replaced by Giannou for Socceroos|
|Griezmann will still take penalties - Simeone|
|Simeone proud of ´one of the best´ wins|
|Godin suffers sprained ankle ligament|
|West Ham receive positive news over injured duo|
|Robson: Four wins for Southgate and he´s an England contender|
|Gunes rues Besiktas´ inability to see off Dynamo|
|Sarri: Late goals leave bitter taste|
|Borussia Monchengladbach were exceptional against Barcelona, feels Schubert|
|PSG must be patient, says Emery|
|Celtic are lucky to have Dembele - Rodgers|
|I´m completely focused on Arsenal, insists Wenger amid England talk|