Uruguay and France battled to a dour 0-0 stalemate Friday at the FIFA World Cup, eight years after battling to a similar goal-less draw at soccer's showpiece event.
The main story line
What is it about these two teams that brings out the worst in each other?
Uruguay and France battled to a 0-0 draw in the first round of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea in a match that saw five players receive yellow cards and French striker Thierry Henry sent off. This game was just as contentious (with seven yellow cards produced and with Uruguay's Nicolas Lodeiro expelled) and some dire soccer. The match lacked entertainment value, as Uruguay put as many bodies as it could behind the ball to try to stifle the French.
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It worked. Save for a few scoring chances, France never really threatened, while Uruguay relied on striker Diego Forlan to fend for himself up front.
Turning point of the game
Lodeiro received his marching orders in the 81st minute when he earned his second yellow card of the game for a foul on France's Bacary Sagna. Although they only had the man advantage for a short period of time, Les Bleus pressed forward and looked as though they would break the Uruguayan resistance.
France earned a free kick in a dangerous area in second-half injury time, but Thierry's Henry's attempt on goal was blocked by Uruguay's defensive wall.
What this result means
Coming into this tournament, France was being touted as the favourite to win Group A. But this result, combined with a 1-1 draw between South Africa and Mexico earlier in the day, means everything is still up for grabs. All four teams are tied at one point each with two matches to play each. If one team can claim three points by winning its next game, it will be firmly in the driver's seat and have the advantage on claiming first place in Group A, and a berth in the second round of the tournament.
The pressure will especially be on France and Mexico, considered the two top teams in this group, as they face each other in their next match. A loss by either side means they would face a must-win situation in their final match of the first round.
Man of the match
It was hard to pick one out in such an uninspiring match, but the nod goes to Diego Forlan. Deprived of quality service and forced to play alone up front, the Atletico Madrid star ran his socks off and carved out a few scoring chances for Uruguay.
Save of the match
In the 18th minute, French midfielder Yoann Gourcuff lined up for a free kick on the left flank, and whipped a dangerous, screaming ball on net. It looked as though the Frenchman's shot would nestle inside the upper left corner, but Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera did well to scramble across his goal-line and palmed the ball out of danger.
The French perspective
"It is almost a beautiful 0-0. But the result is what it is." — coach Raymond Domenech
The Uruguayan perspective
"It was a good game for either side. There seemed little danger, but the sending off conditioned the match." — Diego Forlan.
Uruguay takes on South Africa in Pretoria on June 16 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2:15 pm ET), while France meets Mexico on June 17 in Polokwane (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2:15 pm ET).