New Delhi: Chances were scarce on Wednesday evening at the Stade de France, where France and Uruguay failed to muster a goal between them in a mediocre encounter.
When France and Uruguay last met, in the World Cup of 2002, the match ended in a stale scoreless draw. Thierry Henry was sent-off early on six years ago and, at least, managed to negotiate his 70 minute stint without seeing red, but there was, again, precious little action for the fans to get excited about.
As with many friendly matches, there was not a great deal of bluster and energy about the first half, which would prove to be an even affair despite a disproportionate number of efforts on Fabian Carini’s visiting goal.
But for all France’s endeavour to strike at goal, they were hopelessly impotent at actually testing the Uruguay goalkeeper.
It was the guests that started the trend as Cristian Rodriguez shot over Hugo Lloris’ goal in the opening five minutes before Diego Forlan’s free-kick invitingly found the head of Diego Lugano, who would not find the target either.
Ironically, the only player to force a meaningful save in the entire first half was Jeremy Toulalan, the French defensive midfielder, whose career goal scoring record reads one goal in over 150 appearances. Even his early shot was straight at Carini, who would have been grateful for the work.
Real Murcia’s goalkeeper would spend most of the first half taking bye-kicks as a whole plethora of efforts would fail to find the target.
Chelsea hit-man Nicolas Anelka was the prime culprit, sending a handful of efforts from Ribery’s dangerous free-kicks hopelessly wide or over.
An impressive attacking threat came from French right-back Rod Fanni, whose adventurous runs were often ended in an illegal fashion. From one such foray, just before half time, Les Bleus were presented with a shooting chance but Ribery’s fizzing, swerving effort was punched away by Carini.
A little unsurprisingly, Anelka was withdrawn at half time to be replaced by Caen striker Steve Savidan, who, at 30 years of age, was making his debut for Les Bleus.
His first effort on goal was more meaningful that his replaced counterpart had managed all evening as the visiting custodian was forced to turn the ball award for a corner.
Playing at the very point of France’s attack seemed to suit Savidan, who frequents the role in his club side.
Much of Les Bleus best play would channel through him, although all his efforts on goal were not as productive as the first. Certainly, les Malherbes’ star man was bursting with confidence, attempting a spectacular acrobatic effort that was not too far off target after Carini made an error.
France were dominating the match to a greater and greater extent as time worse on but their finishing was lacking. Savidan cracked a volley off-target at the far post before a cheeky lob failed to produce a save from the Uruguayan stopper. Karim Benzema’s effort from 20 yards had a similar outcome as a scoreless draw became increasingly inevitable.
There was a late flurry of activity in front of the home goal late on as Uruguay won a couple of corners, France’s Achilles heel in recent months. Such a set play came close to being their downfall again as Lloris was fortunate to see Evra come to his aid on the line.
Raymond Domenech’s main concern prior to this match was the state of his defence, however, the back four were rarely tested by Uruguay. Rod Fanni looked a useful attacking threat down the right while Steve Savidan did enough in the second half to suggest that he is worth another look, although the lack of potency must be a niggling worry for the French boss.
France: Lloris; Fanni, Evra, Mexès, Gallas; Toulalan, Vieira (A. Diarra, 46’); Henry (Briand, 71’), Gourcuff (Nasri, 71’), Ribery (Benzema, 57’); Anelka (Savidan, 46’)
Uruguay: Carini; Silva, Caceres, Godin, Lugano; C. Pereira, Gargano, A. Pereira, Rodriguez (Sanchez, 81’); Suarez (Abreu, 68’), Forlan (Cavani, 46’)
Yellow Cards: Cacares 39’, A. Pereira 56’, Sanchez 89’