1. Play it safe
Now it may just have been Uruguay and France’s respective tactics, but there war far fewer “hollywood passes” in this game than there were in the opener between South Africa and Mexico. As a rule, both teams kept their passes short and simple which allowed them to hold on to possession for a lot longer than their group A counterparts earlier in the day. You get the feeling that the Jubilani football, combined with the altitude of 1800 metres, posed more problems than we could have imagined in the opener. Indeed, we nearly saw the usually dependable Hugo Lloris embarrassed by a misjudged bounce at one stage. Managers across South Africa will have taken notice, and there could just have been a lot of swift changes in tournament tactics as a result.
2. I don’t give a damn about a reputation
Three players in particular had come into this game playing a predominant role in this summer’s transfer rumours, each one carrying a weight made up of expectation and hype in equal measures. Franck Ribery still baffles me. He had an above average tournament in 2006, and has not excelled beyond that level in any great form since. How he has earned himself the reported £50 million price tag banded about by the press this summer is either the biggest indicator of a broken transfer market, or some sterling work by the PR men at Bayern Munich. Yoann Gourcuff continues his backward decline since his dream season in 2008/2009. He’s just never cut it on the big stage for France, which is a criminal offence for an international player, never mind one who has been dubbed Zinedine Zidane’s natural successor. Luis Suarez is the only player who we allow some benefit of the doubt to, as the majority of Uruguay’s attacking play went through Diego Forlan (and rightly so – he looked very good with the limited amount of chances that fell his way). Still, Suarez looked slightly selfish at times, and surrendered possession cheaply on few occasions. At the moment however, Dutch football’s latest hot shot looks more of a Mateja Kezman than a Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
3. Step Up
Don’t worry, we weren’t critical of everybody on show yesterday. Abou Diaby put a disappointing season – both at a personal and club level – behind him with a solid performance for France. He’s been criticised by the Emirates faithful after a lacklustre season for the London club, but yesterday Diaby did his stock the world of good. He glided past the Uruguay defence on a number of occasions with the close control and skill we know he is capable of, but so rarely displays. On his day, Diaby is Patrick Vieira-reincarnate. He just needs to believe in himself a bit more, and being one of the few silver linings on a dreary French display yesterday will have helped him do that. With Cesc Fabregas’ future in doubt, Arsenal may need Diaby to do so sooner rather than later.
4. This time, it’s personal
Rumours of a training ground bust-up between Raymond Domenech and Florent Malouda must surely be true. Why else would Domenech – mental instability aside – leave out the in form player in his squad? Malouda has been sensational for Chelsea for over a year now, and yet found himself playing second fiddle to a sorry Sydney Govou. The Chelsea man has since admitted that he found it frustrating to be only allowed 15 minutes of playing time at the end. Don’t worry Florent, you’re not alone. We don’t understand it either. We suspect you’re not the only one who can’t wait for Domenech to step down after the World Cup.
5. Such a crying shame
Nicolas Lodeiro came into this World Cup tipped as one of the young players capable of announcing his name on the world stage. With the game finely poised at 0-0 late in the second, Oscar Tabarez introduced the Ajax starlet, and you got the feeling he could just make that name for himself at the first opportunity. However, the would be hero quickly became the villain for picking up two silly yellow cards. With that, Uruguay’s hopes of snatching a winner quickly transformed into defensive desperation in their attempt to hold onto a draw. It’s a pity, as Lodeiro really was a player we were looking forward to watching this summer. Now he will miss their next game against the hosts South Africa, and will be lucky to feature against Mexico in the final match day, despite Ignacio Gonzalez’ early futility.
6. Insert hand pun here
I’m sorry. Call it bitter, call it small-time, call it what you want. But we couldn’t help but fashion a twisted smile when Thierry Henry’s claims for a late penalty due to a handball were turned down by referee Yuichi Nishimura. Come on, you hardly thought it wouldn’t come up, did you?