France, Uruguay battle to draw at Cape Town

A match between former champions produced an opening day World Cup dud, with France and Uruguay drawing 0-0 in Cape Town.

A match between former champions produced an opening day World Cup dud, with France and Uruguay drawing 0-0 in Cape Town.

France's Franck Ribery and Uruguay's Diego Forlan showed flashes, the fear of losing the opening game stifled both offences.

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.

"We lacked that last bit, the last pass," France coach Raymond Domenech said.

The sellout match at the 64,100-seat Green Point Stadium had little 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. But Domenech still saw a difference since the two other teams had scored.

"The other two have the advantage," Domenech said.

South Africa plays Uruguay next on June 16, one day before France meets Mexico.

"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."

Down to 10 men for the last nine minutes of regulation and three minutes of injury time, Uruguay concentrating on kicking the ball out of defence. But even with a man advantage, France failed to make the difference.

"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.

Domenech looked unhappy at the final whistle, swiping his hand in frustration and then digging his hands deep in his pockets before going across to shake counterpart Oscar Tabarez's hand.

"It is almost a beautiful 0-0," Domenech said. "But the result is what it is."

Almost throughout the match, both teams were troubled by the slippery field which made deep passes next to impossible to play and left Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura unsure of his footing at one stage.

France may have dominated the first half, but its lack of finishing laid bare the crisis of confidence that has long affected the troubled 1998 champions.

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.