The second match of the 2010 World Cup pits together two former world champions: Uruguay, the winners in 1930 and 1950; and France, who triumphed on home territory in 1998.
In 14 World Cup matches since reaching the semi-finals in 1970, Uruguay have managed just one victory, a last-minute win over South Korea in 1990. The man in charge that day was current coach Oscar Tabarez.
Les Bleus are playing in their 13th World Cup and have reached two of the last three finals.
The last meeting between the two was a 0-0 draw in the group phase at Korea/Japan 2002, a result that ensured the early elimination of both sides.
Despite their pedigree, both teams struggled to reach the finals, only clinching their places via the play-offs. While Uruguay were edging past Costa Rica, France were pushed all the way by Republic of Ireland, and only qualified by virtue of the infamous Thierry Henry handball goal.
France have shown little sign of shaking off the poor form that plagued them throughout the qualifiers, reaching a fresh nadir when they went down 1-0 to a weakend China side in last week’s friendly encounter.
In a bid to turn his side’s worrying form around, coach Raymond Domenech has introduced a new 4-3-3 formation, with Jeremy Toulalan operating in a lone holding role and Florent Malouda and Yoann Gourcuff providing the ammunition for the front men. The attacking trio appears unlikely to include France’s record goalscorer, Henry, who looks set to start from the bench after a disappointing domestic season for Barcelona. Instead, Domenech is expected to start with Nicolas Anelka flanked by Franck Ribery and Sydney Govou.
Patrice Evra is tipped to wear the captain’s armband, while centre back William Gallas has recovered from a knee injury and should start.
Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez will be sticking to his tried-and-trusted 3-5-2 line-up, with the midfield duo of Ignacio Gonzalez and Alvaro Pereira supporting the potentially lethal strike partnership of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.
As usual, the prolific Forlan will be the spearhead of their attack. Having enjoyed a productive end to the league season with Atletico Madrid, he should not be lacking in confidence. Forlan’s duel with Gallas, who may well be rusty after failing to play a competitive match since April, could turn out be the defining encounter of the match.
France: Lloris; Abidal, Gallas, Evra, Sagna; Toulalan, Malouda, Gourcuff; Ribery, Govou, Anelka.
Uruguay: Fernando Muslera, Diego Lugano, Diego Godin, Mauricio Victorino, Diego Perez, Alvaro Pereira, Egidio Arevalo Rios, Ignacio Gonzalez, Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez.