Perhaps inspired by the historical significance of the World Cup, the French team decided to get back to their roots and raise the white flag.
France spent all day disintegrating before the eyes of the world, each hour bringing news of the team outdoing itself in lunacy.
It started early in the morning with Franck Ribery making a surprise visit on French TV, looking quite emotional. He denied fighting with Yoann Gourcuff, a story which had featured in many French news outlets. The crestfallen Ribery said he used to like talking to the press, but would be avoiding journalists now.
Peculiar, but not that big a deal.
Far bigger news had trickled through last night, when Nicolas Anelka was sent home for refusing to apologize for his halftime tirade at coach Raymond Domenech. After Demenech told Anelka he needed to play higher up the pitch, Anelka said some not very nice (and not very printable) words, which someone relayed to the press.
Domenech claims the halftime outburst would have been fine except that it ended up on the front page of papers. Since Anelka refused to apologize in a similarly public fashion, the Chelsea man got an early ticket back to Europe.
Anelka has since retired from international play. Again.
Captain Patrice Evra refused to criticize Anelka, instead calling out whatever "traitor" in the locker room squealed to the press.
That's really when the fun part starts.
Led by Evra, the entire team refused to train this morning as a show of solidarity for Anelka. Instead, Domenech was forced to read a written statement from the team in front of the press announcing the players' disagreement with his own decision.
If his marriage proposal on live television hadn't gone so poorly, it might have been the lowest point of Domenech's public life.
Perhaps they feel guilty about that whole Ireland thing. Maybe the vuvuzelas are getting to them. Or maybe Domenech is as horrible as we all thought he was. Whatever the reason, the French have pretty much surrendered. (That noise people hear isn't the distant buzz of the vuvuzela, rather it's the sound of every Irishman cackling so hard he's spilled his Guinness.)
Oh! There were also a couple games today! I nearly forgot, which is a pity since they were all of a high quality.
Powerhouse New Zealand -- crisp, organized, incisive New Zealand -- dropped two points to a sluggish Italy side. Chris Smeltz's early opener proved offside on multiple viewings and then Italy's equalizing penalty was so soft it made pudding look hard.
The best part of the game came after Vincenzo Iaquinta scored the penalty and celebrated by pointing at his nose. The striker previously broke his enormous beak playing against the Kiwis.
Paraguay followed that match up with a solid 2-0 win over an overwhelmed Slovakia. Roque Santa Cruz made his first appearance, but probably has a ways to go until he reaches full fitness. Not to worry, even with Oscar Cardozo on the bench, Paraguay boasts the attacking flair to break down most defenses. Midfielders Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros supplied the stunning goals either side of halftime.
Brazil finished the day off with a commanding 3-1 win over the Ivory Coast. Luis Fabiano announced himself to the tournament by scoring two phenomenal goals with strikes of the highest caliber.
Even though the passing was a tad off, Brazil dominated possession and never really looked in danger of dropping the result. As history has shown us, this Brazil side won't surrender easily.
Goal Of The Day
Paulo Da Silva headed a free kick straight into a Slovakia defender, so he collected the rebound and slotted the ball across to Cristian Riveros. Paraguay up to that point had survived on a one-goal lead with only five minutes left to play in the match, but probably deserved a couple more. Riveros decided to make the last few minutes a bit less stressful.
A slight tap to his left opened a gap and from there, just inside the box, the 27-year-old blasted a left-footed shot straight into the back of the net. With more finishing like that, the game wouldn't have been so close.
Performance Of The Day
Luis Fabiano would have won the above award but two factors prevented him: 1. This award, and 2. His double handball in the lead-up to his best goal.
Even Didier Drogba admitted that Fabiano proved the difference between the two teams. His electric goals set Brazil on its way to a nice win, even when breaking down the Africans proved tedious. The first was a replica of Landon Donovan's strike against Slovenia. Fabiano wiggled between two collapsing defenders and smashed the ball over the goalkeeper's head from an impossibly acute angle, relying on sheer pace and audacity to score.
The second would earn a place among the best ever in this tournament had the Sevilla striker not handled the ball. Collecting a highball, Fabiano clearly uses his fist to bring down the ball away from his marker. A flick over the head of another defender provided the chance for Fabiano to trap with his bicep.
The strike itself was magnificent, a ferocious lash at the ball to double Brazil's lead. More of these performances will see the 29-year-old repeat his Confederations Cup top goalscorer exploits.
Most Shocking Event
The French meltdown is satisfying in large part because is merely manifests the worst-case scenario in the back of everyone's mind. John Terry's announcement came out of the blue.
During a press conference, the former England captain said he will hold an emergency meeting with the players and staff to work out the kinks in the Three Lions camp, even if it unsettles some. On the one hand, England needs a shakeup if the team wants to progress to the knockout rounds. On the other, absolutely everything is wrong with the way Terry is going about this.
1. Terry isn't captain. 2. This should have never gone public. 3. Fabio Capello is in charge. A power struggle right now won't help anything. 4. The transparency of Terry's egotistical motives is overwhelming. 5. Terry's claim that he is a "born leader" just gives people more chances to bring up the fact that he had sexual intercourse with his friend and teammate's baby momma. Just no.
On second thought, given Terry's character, maybe this stunt isn't so shocking after all.
Referee Report Card
We had such a good start! Yet again referees flubbed it.
CONCACAF fans will be familiar with card-happy Carlos Batres from Guatemala. Batres lived up to his reputation with some fairly soft calls. Daniele De Rossi's penalty involved some minor shirt-tugging, but never enough for a penalty. Other referees may have booked De Rossi for diving.
Batres also incorrectly allowed New Zealand's goal to stand, but given how slight Winston Reid's flick on the ball was, him and his linesman are duly excused on that one.
The real talk of the day was Stéphane Lannoy from -- where else? -- France. Lannoy was caught on camera laughing with Luis Fabiano and gesturing to his arm after the Brazilian's second goal. Fabiano vehemently denied any wrongdoing, but if the referee saw an arm, why didn't he call it instead of relying on the word of a player?
Still, that paled compared to his big mistake. As the game turned scrappy, Kader Keita ran into the side of Kaka and fell down clutching his face. It had shades of Sergio Busquets all over it, but somehow Lannoy was convinced Kaka deserved his second yellow.
For the squeaky cleanest of all soccer players, the ultra-religious Kaka, the red card is ridiculous. The Real Madrid playmaker clearly did nothing wrong aside from existing. Ironically, the ejection hurts Ivory Coast more than Brazil. In the third match, Brazil will now take on Portugal without Kaka, in a game Ivory Coast needs Brazil to win to help the Elephants' chances of progressing. Brazil, on the other hand, get to rest Kaka for the last group stages and bring him back fit and fresh for the knockout rounds.
Quote Of The Day
"The players should have shown this kind of solidarity on the pitch."
– Former France international Bixente Lizarazu
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