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FIFA World Cup: 10-man Uruguay hold on against France in dull goalless stalemate

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Former winners France and Uruguay played out a largely dull goalless draw in Cape Town with Les Blues failing to make their one man advantage count after the South Americans had substitute Lodeiro sent off on 82 minutes for two bookable offences. It was all hands to the pump for Uruguay in those last few minutes as the French lay siege to their goal but the defence stood firm with goalkeeper Muslera largely untroubled. France will see this as two points dropped in a game which they started brightly but could not convert their early superiority into enough clear cut chances as the game drifted into a set of niggly challenges which disrupted the flow. Uruguay's best player was Diego Forlan who was at the heart of everything that threatened the French goal and he really should have scored the goal he deserved on 73 minutes but his right-footed snap shot from just 12 yards out drifted harmless wide.

Much maligned France boss Raymond Domenech sprung a huge shock by bringing in Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby into the side in what was effectively a three man central midfield with Jeremy Toulalan sitting, Diaby playing a little ahead of him and Yoann Gourcuff in an advanced attacking role. That meant Nicolas Anelka operating as a lone striker with Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou providing support from the wings. While dropping Thierry Henry to the bench was expected, it was a big call from Domenech to leave out Chelsea's Malouda, who had enjoyed a stellar season with his club. The back four had a familiar and experienced look about it with Gallas, Abidal and new skipper Evra all starting. All eyes were on Franck Ribery too see if he could live up to his reputation as one of the world's best after a disappointing season.

french_fans.jpgUruguay, who announced their intentions by revealing their starting line up a full two days before the kick-off started with Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez up front in what was basically a 3-5-2 formation. Benfica's Maxi Pereiras and Alvaro Pereiras (no relation) of Porto were in the all-important wing-back roles, bookending central midfielders Diego Perez (Monaco), Arevalo Rios (Penarol) and Ignacio Gonzalez (Valencia).

It was France who were quickly out of the blocks revealing intensity in their play which they have not shown for many matches. As the South Americans looked nervous and dithered in possession, the French crunched into tackles with Abou Diaby and Gourcuff particularly impressive in midfield. It was Diaby's astute work in the 6th minute which played in Frank Ribery, whose excellent cross from the left side of the box deserved a better finish from Sidney Govou, who from six yards out could only side foot agonizingly wide. In these early stages Uruguay could not breathe as the French harried and forced them into losing possession cheaply and they were resorting to kicking it long which was easily swept up by the French defence. After initial good work from Ribery his influence began to wane and his most telling contribution was a yellow card towards the end of half.

Inevitably it was Diego Forlan who was by far his side's sharpest player in the first half and he brought about Uruguay's first shot on goal on 16 minutes after he cleverly found space on the edge of the box and rasped a shot which Lloris beat away. This seemed to give Uruguay the confidence to get themselves into the match and as the half developed the French seemed to run out of puff and despite never looking likely to concede, they were not creating chances or worrying goalkeeper Muslera. The French did force a save from a long range free kick from Gourcuff but in all honesty it was hit with more hope than expectation. Chances were few and far between as the two sides began to cancel each other out and the first half ended scrappily with France not being able to match their early dominance.

The second half began much the way the first half ended with both sides failing to get a strong grip on the game. Forlan was proving to be the only focal point of the Uruguay attack with partner Suarez largely ineffective. Defensive midfielder Toulalan tried his luck from a full 30 yards out, but despite striking the ball well it was comfortably saved by Muslera. As the game failed to get out of second gear, Uruguay defender Victorino received his side's first yellow card for a late lunge. The game became increasingly niggly with frequent free kicks not helping the flow and so Manager Oscar Tabarez decided to make a change with 63 minutes on the clock replacing Ignacio Gonzalez with Nicolas Lodeiro. Forlan once again came closest to opening the scoring, but his 30 yard free kick was comfortably saved by Lloris.

The quality of passing from both sides was ropey as the final ball in the area was constantly intercepted with the teams seemingly more keen on riling each other up than trying to score. A late tackle by Toulalan earned him a yellow card and a brief melee threatened to get out of hand but this also was half hearted and quickly petered out. Domenech had obviously seen enough and replaced the hard working but toothless Anelka with old warhorse Henry with almost 20 minutes to go. But before the Barcelona star could have any impact, it was Forlan who really should have put his side in front when he missed the target from 12 yards out after just about the only impressive contribution from Suarez all evening.

France stepped up a gear, bringing on Florent Malouda too in a desperate attempt to chase a late winner. Uruguay tried to help the opposition's cause by having themselves reduced to 10 men following the 82nd-minute dismissal of substitute Nicolas Lodeiro for a shocking challenge on Bacary Sagna. With a man advantage, France attempted to go for the jugular, but their aim was poor, barely delivering the odd body shot. Thierry Henry missed with a late header, a free-kick and ironically had an appeal for hand ball turned down as the Uruguay backline hung on to grab a share of the points.

France now head into their next match with more questions over manager Domenech, who is sure to receive flak for not starting with Florent Malouda, and his late introduction as a substitute will not please fans who see the Chelsea man as a key figure for this French team. Uruguay meanwhile will feel this point could be crucial in their bid to reach the second round, particularly after playing the last 10 minutes or so a man light. Next up for the South Americans are the hosts South Africa on Wednesday the 16th of June. France meanwhile have an extra day to re-think their approach before they take on Mexico.

The Teams:

Uruguay: Muslera, Victorino, Lugano, Godin, Pereira, Maxi Pereira, Perez (Eguren 87'), Arevalo Rios, Gonzalez (Lodeiro 63), Forlan, Suarez (Abreu 73').

France: Lloris, Sagna, Gallas, Abidal, Evra, Govou (Gignac 85'), Gourcuff (Malouda 75'), Toulalan, Diaby, Ribery, Anelka (Henry 71')

Referee: Yuici Nishimura (Japan)

Final Score: Uruguay 0 - 0 France

Check out the Points Table

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File Photograph Copyright: Johann Cardenas (Forlan)

Fans Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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