World Cup 2010 – France held by 10-man Uruguay

France and Uruguay played out a goalless draw at the Green Point Stadium in the second Group A game on the opening day of the World Cup.

Uruguay were forced to play the final nine minutes of the match in Cape Town with 10 men following the dismissal of substitute Nicolas Lodeiro for a second bookable offence.

Substitute Thierry Henry had a late penalty shout for handball dismissed as lacklustre France finally took the game to their opponents, but failure to capitalise on their numerical advantage ended in a disappointing stalemate.

The draw means that neither side took advantage of hosts South Africa’s 1-1 draw with Mexico in the day’s earlier game to move top of the group, although Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez will likely be the happier of the two managers.

His counterpart Raymond Domenech, never a man to be second-guessed, sprung a pre-match surprise by omitting Chelsea star Florent Malouda from his starting line-up, instead preferring Abou Diaby of Arsenal.

Malouda may, or may not, have been a victim of a reported bust-up with his maverick coach a day earlier, but either way Diaby was in no mood to dwell on the reasons for his inclusion and the Gunners midfielder was one of Les Bleus’ more influential players as they enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges.

Playing a 4-3-3 formation – a break from Domenech’s more negative usual tactics – France actually started brightly, Sidney Govou sidefooting Franck Ribery’s cross wide of the far post after just seven minutes.

Yoann Gourcuff, a reported summer target for Arsenal, tested Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera with a free-kick that seemed destined for the top corner 11 minutes later, but the French failed to deliver on their early promise and faded as the opening period went on.

Uruguay, who like France were playing with a notional three-pronged attack line, could not make any inroads though and, a 16th-minute Diego Forlan effort aside – which Hugo Lloris beat away – they failed to threaten the French goal during the first half.

After the break, any hope that the French may break free of the form that has seen them draw with Tunisia and lose to China in warm-up matches were quickly extinguished as they failed to brighten up what was rapidly becoming a poor spectacle.

As Nicolas Anelka struggled to make an impact up front, it was again Forlan who caught the eye at the other end, the Atletico Madrid striker controlling brilliantly on 52 minutes only to fire high over the crossbar.

Forlan was also guilty of wasting Uruguay’s best chance of the game on 73 minutes, the Europa League winner stabbing at a shot and sending it wide of the mark when his club form over the past season suggested he should have done better.

With 15 minutes remaining and the score still goalless, Domenech decided it was time to inject some impetus into proceedings and both Henry and Malouda were sent on.

Malouda’s threat was immediately evident, the Chelsea man pinging a shot wide of the post, before Lodeiro received his marching orders for a lunge at Bacary Sagna that prompted his second yellow card of the night. He had only been on the pitch 18 minutes.

The sending off invigorated France further and they staged a late assault on the Uruguay goal, during which Henry – the man whose handball helped France qualify for the tournament at the expense of Ireland – appealed for a penalty as the ball appeared to strike Mauricio Victorino on the arm.

Referee Yuichi Nishimura turned his claims down, leaving Henry to grin ruefully and France to contemplate a third successive goalless draw in the opening game of a major tournament.

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