Uruguay holds France to draw in opener
A match between former World Cup champions produced an opening day dud, with France and Uruguay playing out a 0-0 draw Friday.
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 sellout match at the 64,100-seat Green Point Stadium had 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," Domenech said.
South Africa plays Uruguay next on Wednesday, one day before France meets Mexico.
Down to 10 men for the last nine minutes of regulation and three minutes of injury time, Uruguay concentrating on kicking the ball out of defense. 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 next to impossible to play and left Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura unsure of his footing at one stage.
France may have dominated the first half, but its 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 center. But instead of blasting the ball home, the Lyon forward fudged a tough sideways glance that sent the ball wide. It was finishing unworthy of a World Cup.
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, which won the title in 1930 and 1950, did its part to contain the French, showing no shame in hiding behind its defensive reputation and sometimes having more than six players in its penalty area to contain a lone Frenchman.
"They were good, solid in defense," Domenech said.
In the 72nd, Forlan had an open shot from 15 meters (yards) which just went wide. Moments later, ineffective strike partner Luis Suarez was replaced.
Any intention to look for victory went out the window when Lodeiro was sent off and even Forlan plied back in defense.
Uruguay: Fernando Muslera, Diego Godin, Diego Lugano, Maximiliano Pereira, Mauricio Victorino, Egidio Arevalo Rios, Ignacio Gonzalez (Nicolas Lodeiro, 63), Alvaro Pereira, Diego Perez (Sebastian Eguren, 87) , Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez (Sebastian Abreu, 74).
France: Hugo Lloris, Eric Abidal, Patrice Evra, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna, Abou Diaby, Yoann Gourcuff (Florent Malouda, 75), Jeremy Toulalan, Nicolas Anelka (Thierry Henry, 72), Sidney Govou (Andre-Pierre Gignac, 85), Franck Ribery.