French held by Uruguay

Updated June 12, 2010 07:05:00

Tables turned: France striker Thierry Henry had an appeal for a penalty turned down for this handball.

Tables turned: France striker Thierry Henry had an appeal for a penalty turned down for this handball. (Getty Images: Lars Baron)

France had a late appeal for a penalty denied by the referee as 10-man Uruguay held on for a 0-0 draw in their opening Group A clash at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.

Following a pulsating 1-1 tournament opener held earlier between South Africa and Mexico, the remaining Group A combatants contested a stalemate.

Uruguay piled blue shirts behind the ball after Nicolas Lodeiro was sent off in the 81st minute, as France pressed ferociously in search of a winner but the 2006 runners-up were thwarted up until the full-time whistle.

France, which qualified for the World Cup in highly controversial circumstances, was ironically denied a late penalty for a clear handball from Mauricio Victorino off the boot of Thierry Henry.

Henry, whose deliberate handball led to the play-off winner against Ireland in qualification, was brought off the bench in the second half and had one last chance to win it with a free kick in stoppage time - but his effort was blocked by Uruguay's defensive wall.

France was lacklustre but, while it was not quite a repeat of its 2002 horror show when as champion it lost 1-0 to Senegal en route to a first-round exit, the draw leaves Raymond Domenech's men with plenty to do.

Despite dominating possession for most of the match France failed to find a way past goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, whose best save came in the first half to deny a wicked free kick from Yoann Gourcuff.

Sidney Govou was also presented a hot chance in the seventh minute, but he was unable to latch onto the end of Franck Ribery's inviting ground cross from the left flank.

Uruguay was relying on strike duo Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez to open up the French defence on their own, rarely committing midfielders forward to support them.

As the game wore on it began to look a reasonable tactic with the livewire Forlan dangerous around the box, albeit testing Hugo Lloris only once with a 20-metre curler.

Nicolas Anelka led a three-man front line but looked off the pace and was replaced by Henry after 73 minutes.

Despite the vuvuzela-led promptings of the 64,000 crowd in the magnificent new Green Point stadium neither side could raise their game, though Forlan lashed wide with 15 minutes left.

Forlan really should have done better with the opportunity after Suarez nodded a cross into his path, and without a marker closing him down he still managed to scuff the finish.

Domenech now faces a test of his abilities against Mexico before what could a mouth-watering finale versus the hosts.

Uruguay, twice champion but which has not got past the second round since 1970, will probably be pleased with the result as the group remains there for the taking.

- ABC/Reuters

Tags: sport, football, world-cup, france, south-africa, uruguay

First posted June 12, 2010 06:27:00

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