PORTO ALEGRE Brazil (Reuters) - The French Revolution of the last World Cup still haunts the memories of fans who have crossed the Atlantic to support Les Bleus in Brazil.
In 2010, players mutinied against coach Raymond Domenech and skulked home from South Africa after a debacle of a campaign.
This time round, though, fans are confident the team will dispense with underdogs Honduras in their opening Group E match in Porto Alegre on Sunday and finally bury the ghost of South Africa.
“We are going to win the match, I hope,” said Dimitri Letourniant, a 38-year-old architect from Normandy. “South Africa was a big shame - all of France was ashamed.”
Letourniant planned to follow the team from Porto Alegre, way down in Brazil’s south, to Salvador in the north and on to Rio de Janeiro.
“If they don’t get off the bus this time, we’ll kill them. It’s a lot of work and a lot of money for us to come here,” he said.
He and other fans praised coach Didier Deschamps, saying he was a firm hand who had brought stability to the side,
“We have a good trainer. That’s the most important. The negative players are out. It’s young players now.”
Another group of French fans, dressed in the national colours of red, white and blue, were whiling away a rainy Saturday morning in an open-sided restaurant in the square by the public market.
“Please forget South Africa. It was awful. We are trying not to remember,” said Anthony Deterwange, 23, a hotel worker from Cannes.
“It is not the same manager. Deschamps is a good manager. We have a good team and we have the lesson of experience. They will not do the same thing.”
His friend Cyrille Geiger, 42, a tobacconist from Paris, agreed.
“You have to have a manager with balls,” he said.
The absence of forward Franck Ribery, who was ruled out of the tournament due to a back injury, did not worry the French fans.
“He was not a great player in 2010 - he was part of what happened there,” said Letourniant.
“It’s an opportunity because they will change styles,” said Geiger.
Honduras could yet prove a difficult nut to crack and France has flopped before less lauded sides in the past - notably a defeat by Senegal in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup, when they were reigning champions.
“The first match is very important to us,” said Deterwange. “It could be 3-0, it could be 4-0, but it won’t be easy.”
The general consensus was that France - whose group also includes Switzerland and Ecuador - should reach the quarter-finals but that would be it.
Deterwange and his gang would be back in France by then anyway, having flown in to Porto Alegre just for the Honduras match and going home on Monday.
“It’s a shame about the weather,” he added.
Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Justin Palmer