France and Uruguay played out a disappointing 0-0 stalemate in their opening Group A game in Cape Town.
France enjoyed the better of the play, especially late on when Uruguay were reduced to ten men following the dismissal of Nicolas Lodeiro, but the 2006 runners-up showed neither the wit nor the invention to break down obdurate opponents.
The result will heap further pressure on French coach Raymond Domenech who must have been hoping for a improved showing from his players after a disappointing string of results in the pre-tournament friendly matches.
Domenech, as expected, omitted France’s leading goalscorer Thierry Henry from his starting line-up, and there was also no place for Florent Malouda, after the French forward reportedly had to be restrained from attacking the coach by team-mate, William Gallas, during Thurday’s training session.
The closest France came to scoring was on seven minutes when, the otherwise disappointing Franck Ribery, broke down the left and crossed for Sydney Govou, but the Lyon striker sliced his shot wide of the post when it looked easier to score.
At the other end, the ever-dangerous Diego Forlan went close when he cut inside on the left and fired in a powerful shot which the French keeper, Hugo Lloris did well to parry.
Two minutes later, France’s Yoann Gourcuff curled in a free-kick from wide out on the left that brought a desperate save from the scrambling Fernando Muslera.
The game was flickering into life, but despite some dynamic bursts from the energetic Abou Diaby, the contest rarely looked like igniting and as half-time approached an impasse had been reached.
After the break, France picked up the tempo, and there were moments when Uruguay’s rearguard came under pressure, but clear cut chances remained at a premium.
Indeed, as the half progressed and notwithstanding the introductions of both Henry and Malouda, the South American side began to show some enterprise of their own. Forlan, easily Uruguay’s most dangerous player, will feel disappointed to have missed the target when he flashed a snap wide from close range midway through the second half.
The game had one late twist when Uruguay substitute, Nicolas Lodeiro, was sent off for a reckless lunge on Bacary Sagna, but even with a numerical advantage France remained an impotent attacking force.
Domenech threw on Andre Pierre Gignac for the anonymous Govou with five minutes left but he never threatened, and half-hearted French appeals for a penalty were dismissed when Henry’s mishit shot seemed to hit Victorino’s lower arm in the 89th minute.
France 0-0 Uruguay
Uruguay: 01 Muslera, 02 Lugano, 03 Godin, 06 Victorino, 16 Pereira, 11 Pereira, 15 Perez (Eguren, 87), 17 Arevalo Rios, 18 Gonzalez (Lodeiro, 63), 09 Suarez (Abreu, 73), 10 Forlan
France: 01 Lloris, 02 Sagna, 03 Abidal, 05 Gallas, 13 Evra, 08 Gourcuff (Malouda, 75), 14 Toulalan, 19 Diaby, 07 Ribery, 10 Govou (Gignac, 85), 21 Anelka (Henry, 71).
Red card: Lodeiro 81