The second match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ pits together two former world champions: Uruguay, the winners in 1930 and 1950; and France, who triumphed 1998. With hosts South Africa and Mexico making up what promises to be a tight Group A, the three points up for grabs in Cape Town on Friday could prove crucial. The last meeting between the two was a 0-0 draw in the group phase at Korea/Japan 2002, a result that contributed to the early elimination of both sides.
Despite their rich footballing traditions, both teams struggled en route to the world finals, only clinching their places in the play-offs. While La Celeste were squeezing past Costa Rica, Les Blues were being pushed all the way by Republic of Ireland, a nerve-racking end to a campaign that raised doubts about their ability to contest for honours at South Africa 2010.
The Uruguayans have looked the more convincing of the two in the build-up to the finals, beating Switzerland and Israel as part of their preparations. France, meanwhile, were brushed aside by Spain in March and lost 1-0 to China only last week.
In a bid to turn his side’s worrying form around, coach Raymond Domenech has introduced a new 4-3-3 formation, with Jeremy Toulalan operating in a lone holding role and Florent Malouda and Yoann Gourcuff supplying the bullets for the front men. Charrúa boss Oscar Tabarez will be sticking to his tried-and-trusted 3-5-2 line-up, with the midfield tandem of Ignacio Gonzalez and Alvaro Pereira supporting the fearsome strike partnership of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.
Players to watch
Diego Forlan vs William Gallas
Never lacking in grit and determination, Uruguay have plenty of attacking firepower to call on in South Africa. As usual, Forlan will be the spearhead. Having enjoyed a productive end to the league season with Atletico Madrid, he should not be lacking in confidence. His duel with Gallas will go some way to deciding the outcome of the match, although the Arsenal central defender has plenty of questions to answer after a frustrating injury-affected season. A solid performance against the ever-dangerous Forlan should help restore his confidence.
16 - Uruguay have won just one of their last 16 matches at the FIFA World Cup finals, a 1-0 defeat of Korea Republic at Italy 1990. Their last victory prior to that came 20 years earlier at Mexico 1970, when they won twice on the way to finishing fourth.
What they said
“Against Uruguay we’ll see whether we’re solid or not. Anything could happen to be honest. Uruguay do a lot of pressing when they’re not in possession, but if we can find a way round that by passing the ball then I’m sure we’ll see an improvement on our performances in the warm-up games,” Jeremy Toulalan, France midfielder.
“I’ve more or less decided on the formation we’ll be using. The tactics will depend on how the game unfolds because the only thing we’ll know for sure before the game is France’s line-up. But no matter how they play, the players we put out there will be able to adapt,” Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay coach.
Voice of the fans
“4-3-3 is a sound tactic when you have experienced players but it can be a bit of a risk if the coach has only just started to use it. The players will have to work really hard because there won’t be any space in the midfield. At the same time, to create chances you have to attack down the wings. France have been playing 4-5-1 for years and they’ll have to prove that they know how to use this system,” FIFA.com user PlayaDeNoche.
France failed to score in their opening games at Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006. Will they find the back of the net on Friday?