France and Uruguay in a luke­warm draw For­mer cham­pi­ons play into Bafana’s hands

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REINERS At Cape Town Sta­dium

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.

MATTHEW JOR­DAAN

MATCH­ING STRIDES: Jeremy Toulalan of France and Uruguay’s Al­varo Pereira.

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