France, Uruguay play 0-0 draw
AP Sports Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Nil-nil draws can be the scourge of soccer. Yet nobody who participated in Friday night’s 0-0 World Cup match between France and Uruguay was complaining.
The game between former champions produced an opening day dud, yet there was much satisfaction expressed by each team for gaining a point.
“It is almost a beautiful 0-0,” France coach Raymond Domenech said. “But the result is what it is.”
Even if some of the tournament’s top stars – France’s Franck Ribery and Uruguay’s Diego Forlan – showed flashes, the fear of losing the opening game stifled both offenses.
The low point came when Uruguay’s Nicolas Lodeiro was ejected after a wild challenge on Bacary Sagna in the 81st minute for his second yellow card.
In the end, an early short-range miss by France’s Sidney Govou and an excellent save from Uruguay’s Fernando Muslera left Group A as wide open as possible.
“There weren’t many chances for either team, neither team wanted to take many chances,” Forlan said. “It was very complicated. The whole game was equal, I thought.”
The match at the sold-out 64,100 Green Point Stadium had few 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.
South Africa plays Uruguay next on Wednesday, one day before France meets Mexico. Lodeiro will be suspended for the game with the host team.
Down to 10 men for the last 9 minutes plus 3 minutes of injury time, Uruguay concentrated on kicking the ball away from its penalty area and net. But even with a man up, France failed to find a goal.
“We had to guard against an unlucky counter,” Domenech said.
After the final whistle, the Uruguayans embraced, happy to have escaped with a point, while most French players looked sullen, saddled with the disappointment of a lost opportunity.
French coach Domenech swiped his hand in frustration and then dug them deep in his pockets before going to shake Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez’s hand.
Both teams were bothered by a slippery pitch that made deep passes next to impossible and left even Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimmura unsure of his footing at one stage.
France dominated the first half, but its lack of a finishing touch showed the lack of confidence that has long affected the 1998 champion.
Great work from Abou Diaby set up Ribery on the left side and his pinpoint low cross found Govou in the center. But Govou didn’t blast the ball home, sending it far wide instead.
Some of France’s best chances came from set pieces, usually taken by Yoann Gourcuff. On one, the midfielder curled a free kick to the near corner, forcing Fernando Muslera to make an excellent save.
Uruguay, which won the title in 1930 and 1950, sometimes had at least seven players in its penalty area to contain a lone Frenchman.
It clearly wanted to give its standout forward duo of Forlan and Luis Suarez room to take on the French defense. And in the 17th minute, he outwitted Bakari Sagna and swept past a slow-moving William Gallas to give goalie Hugo Lloris his first test. It was Uruguay’s only first-half chance.
In the 72nd minute, Forlan had an open shot from 15 yards he sent just went wide.