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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Uruguay 0-0 France


Blessed with one of the finest squads in the tournament and capable of the most scintillating football, France are still a law unto themselves. Never mind winning the World Cup. On the evidence of this abject performance, they’ll struggle just to qualify for the next stage. Raymond Domenech has struggled to maintain order in the camp, with rumours of in-fighting and dispute rife, but it seems unlikely that he’ll have to put up with it for too much longer. His team are woeful and they will surely be on their way home soon.

It was in-fighting that saw Domenech drop Florent Malouda to the bench after an alleged scuffle in training that saw the Chelsea midfielder physically restrained by William Gallas as he tried to assault his boss. In his place came Abou Diaby who struggled manfully in this fitful, scrappy and utterly uninspiring match. This was dire stuff. Nicolas Anelka looked lost up front, Franck Ribery struggled for space and Sidney Govou was so bad that the casual observer might have been convinced that he was doing it deliberately. After a promising start, France lost their shape completely and were reduced to long shots and set-pieces. Every move seemed to break down within four passes as players ran in the wrong direction, misreading each other’s intentions.

Govou wasted their best opportunity, pouncing on a superb cross from Franck Ribery in the 7th minute and somehow contriving to send it wide from close range. That was as close as the French would come to scoring all night. Even when much-heralded rookie Nicholas Loderio was sent off within 20 minutes of coming on, Domenech’s side couldn’t capitalise. There was no lack of ability, just a total absence of cohesion and strategy. It takes a very special kind of mind to take such promising raw materials and create such a witless, hopeless and inept dog’s dinner of a football team. In a funny kind of way, Domenech should be quite proud of himself.


No, not even nearly. With the exception of a wickedly struck effort from Diego Forlan in the first half, they created very little. Hugo Lloris, who seems more suspect in the air with every passing month, offered hope with his handling, but the South Americans never came close to threatening his goal. Only in the 73rd minute, when Forlan smashed a snapshot well wide of the post, was he forced to muddy his knees. After a shaky start, they were relatively robust at the back, though Diego Lugano made a number of mistakes that could have been punished by a better team. Loderio’s dismissal signalled the end of their efforts to win the game. His rash tackle on Bakary Sagna earned a second booking that just couldn’t be argued.


Perhaps. Referees have certainly given spot-kicks for less. As injury-time approached, Thierry Henry fired a ball in at goal from close range and it struck Mauricio Victorino on the hand. Could he have moved out of the way? Unlikely, and so referee Yuichi Nishimura’s decision to let it go was quite justified. Henry was furious, but perhaps he just didn’t realise the irony of the situation. After all, the last time a referee ignored a handball in the penalty area, it worked out rather well for him

Magic Moment - Yoann Gourcuff was poor, but he almost grabbed an unlikely goal when he smashed a free-kick in from a narrow angle. Fernando Muslera saved well.

Laser-Guided - Franck Ribery’s low searching cross for Sidney Govou was the best pass on a sad night for the beautiful game. Standards were low in Cape Town.

Net-Busting - Diego Forlan could have ripped the net from its fixings in the second half. It’s just a shame that he fired the ball about 10 yards to the left of the target.

Safe-Hands - Muslera had to be on his toes to keep Gourcuff’s dipping effort at bay. With everyone else expecting a cross, he moved quickly to save the day.

Danger! - Nicholas Loderio was probably only guilty of over-eagerness when he clattered into Bakary Sagna in the second half, but it did look awful.

Floodlight-Smasher - Gourcuff’s last act was to fire a shot so wide of Muslera’s goal that it very nearly went off for a throw-in. This was typical of his performance.

Dunce - When you find one of the EPL’s most in-form midfielders in your squad, you don’t fight him and leave him on the bench. Florent Malouda should have started.

Ref-Watch - Yuichi Nishimura was firm, but fair. He dealt out six yellow cards and one red, but it was hard to dispute any of them. Excellent performance.


MAN OF THE MATCH - Jeremy Toulalan. He wasn’t quite as awful as everyone else in this terrible, terrible game.