Vieira doubts England's chances
Patrick Vieira has told RMC he does not see England "going very far" at the World Cup, and has reiterated his disappointment at Samir Nasri's omission from the France squad.
Reserve team coach at Manchester City, Vieira, 37, will work as a pundit for ITV during the upcoming finals in Brazil. After also spending nine successful years at Arsenal, the former French international has a better idea than most about the chances of Roy Hodgson's side in South America, and with Uruguay and Italy both lurking in the group stage, Vieira does not believe he will have the opportunity to use his insight into the English game for long.
"It's true no-one is expecting them to do anything. They are in a very complicated group. They could cause an upset because they do have players like Rooney and Gerrard capable of making the difference. But honestly, I don't see them going very far. I hope that I'm wrong because it's a team that I like a lot and there are a lot of players I like."
The 1998 World Cup and EURO 2000 winner should see his native country fare better. Didier Deschamps' men are favourites to emerge top of an undemanding Group E ahead of Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador.
Their ambitions of going deeper into the competition may, however, depend on the fragile back of Franck Ribery. The Bayern Munich star, 31, has not featured in either of Les Bleus' warm-up friendlies to date, and has barely trained with the rest of Deschamps' 23-man squad.
French media have reported Ribery could even miss the whole tournament with talk of a secret pact between the player and Deschamps that, should he not be fit to feature in Sunday's final friendly against Jamaica in Lille, Ribery will stay at home.
Vieira believes, regardless of the state of his fitness, the man who finished third in last year's FIFA Ballon d'Or vote should be on the plane to Brazil.
"Given his importance in the team, you have to take him and gamble, hoping it's going to get better. Perhaps he'll miss a game. He could perhaps play the second or third. Whatever happens, you have to take a player like Ribery to a World Cup if there is the slightest chance he can play a game," said Vieira, who found himself in a similar position to Ribery due to a thigh injury sustained ahead of EURO 2008.
"It's not easy for the coach to deal with, but it's not easy for the player either. It's frustrating. You ask yourself a lot of questions. But when there is the slightest chance, you have to take a player like Ribery or Zidane to major competitions."
Nasri, 26, will certainly be watching events in Brazil from the comfort of his home after being left out by Deschamps. Having been influential in Manchester City's Premier League title win, Nasri's absence even from the provisional 30-strong list raised eyebrows on the English side of the Channel.
Vieira's expressed his surprise at the former France captain's decision, though he denied he had told ITV in a recent interview that Deschamps had made a mistake.
"I didn't say that. Things are always taken by half. With all the respect I have for Didier, as a coach and a player, I was very disappointed for Samir. He worked hard to try to be part of that 23-man list. It's difficult to understand why he's not part of the 23, but in the end, I'm not the national team coach. And I respect his choices without a problem. But I have seen Samir work all season, and - as far as I'm concerned -- I think Samir was worthy of a place. He might have a different opinion," said Vieira, who added Nasri's reported sulking -- a reason cited by Deschamps for the decision -- was not uncommon in professional football.
"I don't know a player who would like to be on the bench. It's difficult to find them at the very top level. Perhaps Didier asked himself some questions. I'm speaking about what happens on the pitch. It's certain that there is a certain way of behaving. I don't see Samir when he's with the France team. I see him at Manchester City. I'm speaking purely about the sporting side of things. However, it's Didier who sees best how to deal with his squad."