France and Uruguay in a lukewarm draw Former champions play into Bafana’s hands
IT WAS a grand occasion at a magnificent new venue in the Mother City which brought its unique partying noise and spirit. Unfortunately, the game failed to live up to expectations.
France and Uruguay played to a tepid, goalless draw in theGrouip A fixture in the new, multi-billion venue in Green Point.
After the emotion and drama of the other match in the group – a pulsating 1-1 draw between Bafana Bafana and Mexico in Johannesburg – this was most definitely a let-down for the many thousands who packed out the ground. France, while dominating possession, lacked penetration. Amid all the drudgery, though, Uruguay striker Diego Forlan took the opportunity to vent the full range of his astounding ability.
Forlan’s individual display of brilliance was breathtaking. He single-handedly carried the Uruguayan team at times. Whenever he gained possession of the ball, there was danger for France. Not only was his individual effort outstanding but his link play with teammates was as impressive. He’s a freakish footballer, with sublime touch, superb anticipation and blinding skill.
In the build-up to the match, much debate centred around the troubles of the French team. The Thierry Henry handball controversy during the World Cup qualifier against Ireland, the sexual shenanigans that placed a cloud over their preparations, disagreement and disruption in the squad over coach Raymond Domenech’s decision to use Henry off the bench, while there had also been much criticism from the French press and politicians. How would the French team respond, was the question.
From the opening whistle the French looked determined to prove a point, to show that they were a united team. In the seventh minute, Franck Ribery’s cross was set up by Sidney Govou, but the Lyon forward scuffed the ball wide. Seven minutes later, right-back Bacary Sagna’s cross found Nicolas Anelka, but the striker headed over the bar.
But that was about it. Overall, France still resembled a toothless shark.
After weathering the initial storm from the French, Uruguay gradually got back into the game, with Forlan the main mover and shaker in getting things going for the South Americans. In the 16th minute, an intuitive twist and turn took him away from his marker and he unleashed a ferocious shot that was well stopped by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The stadium erupted into a cauldron of noise when Henry was introduced for the final 15 minutes. And there were also loud cheers when Chelsea’s Florent Malouda entered the fray a few minutes later.
Uruguayan substitute Nicolas Lodeiro then became the first man to be sent off at the 2010 World Cup when he was red-carded for a rash challenge on Sagna.
But not even the one-man advantage could lift the French to greater heights. The two draws leave the group on a knife edge and the next round of fixtures could well prove to be decisive when Bafana play Uruguay and France take on Mexico.
Looking ahead, there’s some food for thought for Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira as yesterday the South Africans’ counterattack approach worked well.
MATCHING STRIDES: Jeremy Toulalan of France and Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira.