An opportunity to seize the initiative in Group A was missed at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium as France and ten-man Uruguay served up a drab goalless draw. The earlier stalemate between South Africa and Mexico had presented their section rivals with the chance to claim top spot, but neither did enough to secure three points in a scrappy encounter in which Nicolas Lodeiro picked up the tournament’s first red card.
France’s difficulties at UEFA EURO 2008 and during FIFA World Cup™ qualifying have enabled them to sneak almost unnoticed into this competition, yet they reminded everyone of their considerable potential with some slick early play. Predictably, Franck Ribery was at the heart of the best of their attacking forays, and only Sidney Govou will know how he failed to convert the Bayern Munich winger’s inviting low cross after eight minutes. Ribery looked to have laid on a certain goal, with Govou inside the six-yard box when the ball arrived, but the Lyon player’s right-foot attempt lacked conviction and the ball trickled wide of the far post.
Les Bleus remained in the ascendancy, and Nicolas Anelka – who endured a frustrating evening – might have done better than head over from an intelligently weighted Yoann Gourcuff cross. The presence of Diego Forlan ensured that Raymond Domenech’s side were never able to rest easy, though, and the Atletico Madrid striker underlined his capabilities on 16 minutes with an effort out of nothing. Stepping inside from the left beyond William Gallas, Forlan unleashed a powerful right-foot drive that was heading for the net before Hugo Lloris got across to make a fine save.
Nonetheless, this was an isolated moment of concern for a French side who remained firmly in control, with Abou Diaby dictating the midfield pace. Gourcuff was also impressing, and with 18 minutes played he forced an alert save from Fernando Muslera with an audacious free-kick attempt on goal, inches from the left touchline. The game fell into something of a lull as half-time approached, but the tempo picked up again after the break, with Forlan blasting over after sneaking in between Gallas and Bacary Sagna. There was precious little penetration, however, and the growing frustration was summed up 12 minutes after the restart when Jeremy Toulalan tried his luck from all of 35 yards, bringing a comfortable save out of Muslera.
France introduced Thierry Henry in an attempt to re-establish their early superiority, but it was Uruguay who should have snatched victory, with Forlan wasting the best chance of the half, blasting wide from an unmarked position 12 yards from goal. Ultimately, however, La Celeste were happy to hold out for a point after second-half substitute Lodeiro earned a second yellow card for an ugly lunge on Sagna.