Lodeiro sent off 81
After the carnival atmosphere of South Africa’s opening 1-1 draw with Mexico, the World Cup sobered up with a dire goalless draw between France and 10-man Uruguay. Nicolas Lodeiro’s late sending off momentarily livened up a frustrating game that saw both teams fail to take advantage of the earlier draw in Group A.
France had the best early chance but it was Hugo Lloris in the French goal who made the first real save. First, Franck Ribery skinned Mauricio Victorino down the left but Sidney Govou could only deflect his low cross wide when it would be easier to score. Minutes later, Diego Forlan cut in from the left and Lloris was forced into a save, parrying his curling effort away. The first-half offered precious little else in way of goalmouth action, although Nicolas Anelka may have tested Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera if he could have got more purchase on his header from Bacary Sagna’s cross.
The second-half was again low on chances, with Forlan snatching at a shot following a long throw and putting it wide. The biggest incident of the second period was the dismissal of Uruguayan substitute Lodeiro for a second yellow card. The young Ajax playmaker paid the price for a cheap yellow card seconds after coming on for kicking the ball away, although his late challenge on Sagna for the second booking could have warranted a straight red. France had a late penalty appeal turned away for a handball against Victorino after Thierry Henry’s mis-hit volley bounced on to his arm but it was a clear case of ball to hand and the excellent Japanese referee Yuici Nishimura quickly signalled play on. The draw suits Uruguay more than France and was just deserts for two sides who failed to take the attacking initiative.
Uruguay were set up to defend quite narrowly which left space for France to exploit on the flanks but they failed to do so. The French formation did not aid their ability to exploit the room, with France lacking width in attack. Whilst Sidney Govou was nominally on the right of a front three, he tended to be drawn into central areas, particularly when Nicolas Anelka dropped deep. On the left, Franck Ribery often looked to drift inside on to his right foot but it was no coincidence that the best French chance of the first-half came when he beat his man on the outside and drilled a cross in towards Govou.
Having waited until the age of 30 to appear at a World Cup, Anelka seemed to struggle in his big chance as the leader of the French attack. It is possible that he is suffering from playing more of a supporting role to Didier Drogba for Chelsea, with his movement suggesting he has become more used to leaving central space for the big Ivorian. Having waited surprisingly long to deploy his substitutes, Raymond Domenech finally turned to Thierry Henry with less than 20 minutes to play, the Barcelona fringe player replacing Anelka. With the likes of Andre-Pierre Gignac on the bench as a more traditional option for a main frontman, it seemed a strange decision for Domenech to choose Henry whose natural game replicates the same role that had rendered Anelka ineffectual. Gignac was finally brought on for the final five minutes but only when France were playing against 10 men. Even then he was pushed out on the right flank when his height could have been better utilised in the middle.
A change that made more sense was the introduction of Florent Malouda for Yoann Gourcuff. The Bordeaux man has become France’s great creative hope but struggled to impact on the game in any way. It had been the sporadic forward bursts from Abou Diaby alongside him that had offered France their brightest moments with Gourcuff restricted to a series of wasted free-kicks. Giving the Chelsea midfielder just 15 minutes may have had more to do with a reported bust up with Domenech but he must surely have a chance of starting the match with Mexico after this ineffectual French performance.
It was hard for Uruguay’s freescoring strike pair to get into the game, with Luis Suarez a passenger and Diego Forlan enjoying most success when cutting in from the left. The frustration felt by Suarez was perhaps evident later in the first half when he strayed offside on the right flank when Forlan looked to set him clear. Had he received more of the ball, he may have been less impatient and held his run. The introduction of Lodeiro was designed to give the Uruguayan midfield more creativity but his swift dismissal meant his appearance was little more than a cameo. Down to 10 men, Uruguay’s hopes of snatching a winner evaporated and they were reduced to a final five minutes of backs-to-the-wall defending.
Uruguay – Muslera – Victorino, Lugano, Godin – M. Pereira, Perez (Eguren 87), Arevalo, A. Pereira – Gonzalez (Lodeiro 63) – Forlan, Suarez (Abreu 73)
France – Lloris – Sagna, Gallas, Abidal, Evra – Govou (Gignac 85), Gourcuff (Malouda 75), Toulalan, Diaby, Ribery – Anelka (Henry 72)