If there is one overwhelming reason most people believe France cannot win this year's World Cup, it is that the French have had problems away from their home turf.
On Saturday at Guadalajara's Jalisco Stadium, the French can remove all doubts about their ability to play on the road when they meet three-time world champion Brazil in a highly anticipated Cup quarterfinal match.
France has not lost at home in four years, including winning the European championship in 1984. But in World Cup qualifying matches last year, the French lost in East Germany and in Bulgaria and were tied in Yugoslavia, 0-0.
The foreign-soil problem, Coach Henri Michel said, "is in the mind, where something in us snaps. You see the same in French club teams . . . I do not really know the answer to it."
So far in Mexico, France's answer has been tremendous play from its incomparable midfield of Michel Platini, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez. But France has been fortunate that it has not had to play any Latin American teams here. In its first-round matches, France beat Canada and Hungary and tied the Soviet Union. In the second round, the French defeated three-time world champion Italy.
But Brazil is a very different story.
Brazil, of course, is a Latin American team. Brazil also regards Guadalajara as a second home because that is where it played many of its matches en route to the 1970 Cup title, and it has played all of its matches this year at Jalisco Stadium. And, finally, Brazil has outscored its four Cup opponents, 9-0.
If that's not enough to make French fans uneasy, consider Brazil's tradition. It is the only nation to play in all 13 Cups and has an astounding overall Cup record of 41-10-10.
"We are extremely satisfied to play the Brazilians because they are always such a factor in the Cup," Michel said. "I respect Brazil because of its tactics, ball control, strength, offense and rhythm."
By moving to a younger lineup, Brazil is much faster moving from defense to offense and vice versa. Among the beneficiaries of the personnel changes are 20-year-old striker Muller and 25-year-old defender Josimar. Indirectly affected is striker Careca (four goals), who has shifted to the left wing to accommodate Muller on the right.
What should make the France-Brazil match fascinating is watching the teams work their short-passing games. The French, in fact, often have been called "the Brazilians of Europe."