France kicked off their World Cup campaign against Uruguay last night in Cape Town and could only manage a draw against the South Americans, despite having the advantage of playing against 10 men for the last 10 minutes.
So what did we learn from the contest? Let’s take a look...
Franck Ribery is a precocious talent, but he’s coming back from injury and it’s a mistake to rely on him to create something in the final third.
The winger did lay it on a plate for Sidney Govou in the opening minutes of the game, but after that he was largely stifled by the Uruguayan defence.
France won’t go far in the tournament if they expect Ribery to win them every game single-handedly.
Part of the reason the French are so reliant on Ribery to create something is because Govou is playing on the opposite flank. His scoring record isn’t great for his nation, and this showed when he stabbed an early chance wide of the target when it would have been easier to score.
His last international goal came in September 2008 as France lost 3-1 to Austria at home. This, coupled with Nicolas Anelka’s indifferent scoring record, means that it’s tough to see where the goals are coming from in this side.
Florent Malouda was given a brief cameo at the end and he arguably demonstrated a greater threat than Govou did for the 80 minutes he had on the pitch.
Raymond’s Domenech’s frailties are well documented; suffice to say that the French coach did his reputation of being a complete buffoon no damage last night. Watching him make an array of odd hand gestures from the side lines would be funny if he wasn’t so pathetic.
The weakness in his squad selection told, he threw on Thierry Henry, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Malouda in search of a goal, when the game was crying out of the creativity and guile of a Samir Nasri...shame he’d left the canny midfielder at home.
Yoann Gourcuff had been talked up as the next great hope of French football but the 23-year-old’s performance against Uruguay left a lot to be desired. He let fly with a decent free-kick in the first half but all he seemed to offer was a few cute touches that didn’t really come off and a few average shots from distance.
For a player who is being mooted as a potential replacement for Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal, you’d expect a lot more from him.
Despite the criticism you can throw at the French, Uruguay deserve a few words of praise as well – for all the talk of their potent strike force before the tournament, they were surprisingly solid at the back. France have attackers with quality, yet they were neutralised for large chunks of the game.
They also have a slightly annoying tendency to go down under minimal contact, but they are South American after all.
People have been talking up Luis Alberto Suarez in the run up to this tournament after he scored 49 goals in 48 appearances for Ajax this season. While that is a hugely impressive record, there are other strikers who have achieved similar feats and failed to produce on the bigger stage,
Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Mateja Kezman (remember him?!) spring to mind. If you’re looking for goals from Uruguay, Diego Forlan is still the safest bet.