2010 WORLD CUP: FRANCE v URUGUAY – WHAT TO WATCH FOR

2010 WORLD CUP: FRANCE v URUGUAY – WHAT TO WATCH FOR

WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS:

France: 1 – 1998

Uruguay: 2 – 1930, 1950

FRANCE

France was the first team to ever hold both the World Cup (1998) and European Championships (2000) at the same time. That French team defined a generation, but this France team is not THAT French team. This is not even the same team that made it all the way to the 2006 Final, only to be beaten on penalty’s by Italy, though some of the names are still there.

Thierry Henry, once one of the most loved and feared strikers in the world, is now 32, and though he is the all-time leading goal scorer with France (51 goals), he is no longer the same player he was. France has only 5 players under 25-years-old and the side is fraught with controversy and in-fighting. A prostitution scandal has rocked key members of the team and Manager Raymond Domenech is not well respected by fans, media and even his own players. In fact, Domenech’s replacement, Laurent Blanc, has already been hired.

France qualified by finishing second to Serbia in UEFA’s Group 7. They then needed the famous Henry ‘double hand ball’ to beat Ireland in a playoff. The missed call that allowed the France goals was widely vilified and many in the world were calling for a replay of the Ireland match.

This new France team is led by Frank Ribery. Former France hero Zinidine Zidane has called Ribery the “jewel of French football”. The Bayern Munich midfielder has some of the fiery qualities that defined Zidane’s game, in fact he had to sit out the 2010 Champions League Final (which Bayern lost 2-0) due to a suspension. Ribery also has some of the flare that Zidane brought to the pitch, albeit in a more workmanlike intensity, and when on form he can lift France.

If he is selected for the starting XI, that is.

Domenech has a very unique and intriguing way of selecting players, as he left off Patrick Viera and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema from the World Cup squad. No French player, not Henry, Ribery or Gallas, is a guaranteed starter under the current boss.

URUGUAY

Uruguay is team trivia experts leave out when asked to name the teams that have won the World Cup; and they’ve won two. It was a different age (1930-1950) but Uruguay hasn’t forgotten.

This incarnation of Uruguay comes from the ashes of a very physical side, and now focuses on incredible goal scoring talents. Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid and Luis Suarez of Ajax seem to pour goals in for their clubs, but Uruguay struggled in qualifying and, like France, survived a controversial playoff with CONCACAF fourth-place side Costa Rica.

Captain and stalwart Diego Lugano buoy Uruguay’s defense, but considering how sound the Uruguayan defense is, they still let in goals due to questionable goalkeeping. Lazio’s Fernando Muslera will start and the French attack, will likely be testing him early in the match.

Managed by the intriguing Oscar Tabarez who managed the team previously in 1990. Tabarez will look to exploit the strange selctions and tactics of Domenech.

QUOTE

“No-one writes history about who played well in the group stages. For me, the World Cup starts in the knock-out rounds, so the objective is to first get to the second phase.”

Oscar Tabarez – Uruguay Manager

BATTLE TO WATCH

William Gallas v Diego Forlan Forlan, two-time European Golden Boot winner, had an incredible season for Atletico Madrid and knows how to approach European defenses. He will be very familiar with the France backline. Gallas will know Forlan well, and the success or failure of this match may depend on if the Arsenal defender can stay focused.

KEY PLAYERS

France – Frank Ribery: His intensity may pull France out of its funk at the right time.

Uruguay – Luis Suarez: The 23-year-old Ajax striker has a similar intensity. In addition he has scored more than a goal a game for Ajax this season and has scored a goal in 1 out of every three matches he has played for Uruguay.

X-Factor – Patrice Evra. A world-class left back, who has the pace to be in the attacking end before opposing teams realize it.

PREDICTION

Look for a draw in this match, likely 1-1 or perhaps a repeat of the 0-0 the two teams produced at the 2002 World Cup.

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