Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Watch - France 0-0 Uruguay

If the first game of the tournament was a vibrant and enjoyable one, then this evening's contest was more of a scrapfest.

It was probably to be expected. Neither outfit should be brimming with confidence, considering the great difficulty with which they qualified. One of the sides - and I can't quite remember which one - even had to resort to downright cheating in order to get to South Africa.

The French's problems don't even end at on-field indifference - there is major dissension in the ranks. Florent Malouda had a bust-up with manager Raymond Domenech, according to some media outlet, and supposedly many members of Les Bleus' squad don't see eye-to-eye with their coach. Someone should write a sitcom about it, entitled 'Everybody Hates Raymond', obviously.

So it was somewhat surprising that the Patrice Evra-captained French began the match in such vigorous fashion. West Ham-linked Sidney Govou should have put them ahead from a delicious Franck Ribery cross, Yoann Gourcuff might have from a swirling free-kick that Uruguay 'keeper Fernando Muslera palmed away well, while Nicolas Anelka also went reasonably close with a header.

But that intent from the Europeans soon dissipated and the game turned into a pretty laboured and bitty affair. Things didn't flow, there was no real quality and neither side looked capable of a moment of magic. Ribery, after a bright start, really went missing.

Forlan was pretty sharp, forcing Hugo Lloris to save smartly in the first half and slashing a powerful attempt wide in the second, and Abou Diaby and Jeremy Toulalan were France's stand outs, giving forceful performances from the middle of the park, but there wasn't a lot else to rave about.

You expected Domenech's charges to shed their meekness when Uruguay substitute Nicolas Lodeiro was sent off, the 21-year-old receiving a second booking for a nasty-looking lunge on Bacary Sagna.

But no. Malouda - more likely to give his boss a Glasgow kiss than a French one - Thierry Henry and the relatively unknown Toulouse forward Andre-Pierre Gignac made their side slightly more potent and Sagna did begin to buccaneer effectively down the right, but Muslera never appeared to be in any peril at any any stage.

These two may have been the favourites to advance from Group A at the start of the day, now though, things are a lot more open.

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