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France,  Uruguay   fizzle


Andrew Browne, [email protected]

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CAPE TOWN – A match between former World Cup champions produced an opening day dud, with France and Uruguay playing out a 0-0 draw yesterday.
France winger Franck Ribery and Uruguay striker Diego Forlan showed flashes of their potential, but the fear of losing the opening game stifled offensive tactics for much of the match.
The low point came when Uruguay substitute Nicolas Lodeiro, who came on in the 63rd, was sent off with two yellow cards after a wild challenge on Bacary Sagna in the 81st minute.
In the end, an early goalmouth miss from France forward Sidney Govou and excellent save from Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera left Group A as wide open as possible.
“We lacked that last bit, the last pass,” France coach Raymond Domenech said.
The match at the 64 100-seat Green Point Stadium had been sold out; but little of the thrills and drama of the 1-1 opener between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City, but the result left all four teams tied with one point. But Domenech still saw a difference since the two other teams had scored.
“The other two have the advantage,” he said.
South Africa will meet Uruguay next on Wednesday, one day before France will meet Mexico.
Down to ten men for the last nine minutes of regulation and three minutes of injury time, Uruguay concentrated on kicking the ball out of defence. But even with a man advantage, France failed to make the difference.
“We had to guard against an unlucky counter,” Domenech said.
After the final whistle, the Uruguayans embraced each other, happy to have escaped with a point.
“There weren’t many chances for either team. Neither team wanted to take many chances. It was very complicated,” said Forlan.
Domenech looked unhappy at the final whistle, swiping his hand in frustration and then digging his hands deep in his pockets before going across to shake counterpart Oscar Tabarez’s hand.
“It is almost a beautiful 0-0,” Domenech said. “But the result is what it is.”
Almost throughout the match, both teams were troubled by the slippery field which made deep passes nigh impossible to play and left Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura unsure of his footing at one stage.
France may have dominated the first half, but their lack of finishing laid bare the crisis of confidence that has long affected the troubled 1998 champions.
Great work from Abou Diaby set up Ribery on the left and his pinpoint low cross found Govou perfectly in the centre. But instead of blasting the ball home, the Lyon forward fudged a tough sideways glance that sent the ball wide.
Some of France’s best chances came from set pieces, usually taken by Yoann Gourcuff. From a tight angle on the far left, the Bordeaux midfielder curled a free kick to the near corner, forcing Muslera into an excellent save.
Uruguay, who won the title in 1930 and 1950, did their part to contain the French, showing no shame in hiding behind their defensive reputation and sometimes having more than six players in their penalty area to contain a lone Frenchman. (AP)

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