France, Uruguay play goal-less draw (Lead)

June 12th, 2010 - 3:57 am ICT by IANS  

Thierry Henry Cape Town, June 12 (DPA) France and Uruguay played out a goal-less draw in their opening match in FIFA World Cup’s Group A Friday in the Green Point stadium in front of 64,100 spectators.
France could not break down a stubborn Uruguay defence despite being up against 10 men for the last nine minutes when substitute Nicolas Lodeiro was sent off having only been on the pitch 16 minutes.

The result leaves Group A wide open with hosts South Africa also sharing the points in their opening game with Mexico. They now play Uruguay next Wednesday with France meeting Mexico Thursday.

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez made just two changes from the side that beat Israel in the country’s only warm-up game prior to the World Cup. In came Universidad de Chile’s Mauricio Victorino and Penarol midfielder Egidio Arevalo.

The South Americans were relying heavily on the strike partnership of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who scored 53 goals between them last season for Atletico Madrid and Ajax, while France left out their most famous forward.

Thierry Henry was on the bench as Nicolas Anelka lead the line supported by Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery and Lyon’s Sidney Govou. Chelsea’s Florent Malouda was another notable absentee in Raymond Domenech’s starting line-up.

France had the first scoring chance in the seventh minute when Ribery raced away down the left and crossed for Govou who from the edge of the six-yard box failed to steer his effort past Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal.

Uruguay were looking to play in Suarez at every opportunity and one long ball to the striker was fumbled by French keeper Hugo Lloris. He appeared to concede a corner as he caught it at the second attempt only for the linesman to award a goal kick.

On 16 minutes Uruguay had their first real chance when Lloris saved from Fifa man-of-the-match Forlan after the striker cut inside Gallas and shot from the edge of the box.

Gourcuff then took a free-kick from the left wing and with everyone expecting a cross the Bordeaux midfielder almost caught out Muslera with a shot that the Uruguay keeper turned over his bar.

On 19 minutes Ribery was booked for pulling back Arevalo. Gourcuff then shot again from distance as France looked in vain for the opener. Diego Lugano’s mistake then almost let in Anelka but Diego Godin blocked his shot.

France went close again 14 minutes before the break when Diaby looked to release Govou but Anelka intercepted the pass and was flagged offside.

The offside flag then thwarted Uruguay when Forlan played in Suarez but the Ajax striker was just the wrong side of the last defender.

France had the last chance of the first half when Gourcuff’s long free-kick was punched away by Muslera but despite making most of the running the runners-up from Germany 2006 could not break down their well-organised opponents.

Both teams were unchanged at the start of the second half with Forlan having Uruguay’s first chance blasting wide under pressure from Gallas.

Bacary Sagna then crossed for Anelka to head wide but France were still being limited to shots from distance with Toulalan testing Muslera again.

On 59 minutes Victorino was booked for bringing down Patrice Evra and from the resulting free-kick Gourcuff squared to Ribery but he sliced his effort well wide.

At the other end Sagny brought down Suarez but Forlan’s free-kick did not trouble Lloris. Uruguay made their first change on 64 minutes when Ignacio Gonzales was replaced by Nicolas Lodeiro whose stay was to be a short one.

Lodeiro went into the book almost immediately for a late challenge and he was soon joined by Toulalan for a foul on Pereira. Tempers flared with Uruguay’s Lugano seeking out the offending Lyon midfielder who was then spoken to once more by the referee.

With France not looking like making the breakthrough Henry replaced Anelka on 71 minutes and Malouda replaced Gourcuff three minutes later. Still France could not find the breakthrough but they were then given a helping hand by hot-headed Lodeiro.

On 82 minutes he was sent off for a terrible foul on Sagna. The Ajax midfielder had only been on the pitch 16 minutes and had been booked just two minutes after coming on.

Uruguay had just nine minutes to hang on and they managed it surviving one late scare when Henry had a free-kick in a perfect position but wasted the chance with a tame shot.

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