By Calvin Palmer
Anyone watching the Uruguay v France game in Group A this afternoon will now have a good understanding of the way my club team, Stoke City, play in the English Premier League.
Stoke’s manager Tony Pulis favors two banks of four at the back to protect the point that is in the bag before the whistle has blown to start the match.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez opted for a back line of five with two players just in front of them, two in midfield and two up front.
French coach Raymond Domenech also seemed to borrow from the Pulis coaching manual by playing Anelka as a lone striker up front.
Given that Anelka was confronted by a seven-man Uruguayan defense, it is small wonder that the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
Even the sending off of Uruguay substitute Nicolas Lodeiro for a wild challenge on French fullback Bakary Sagna in the 82nd minute failed to see France capitalize on their one-man advantage.
A game that had stalemate written over it pretty much from when the ball was first kicked ended that way.
Now whether it was a case of a superb defensive display by Uruguay, or a lackluster performance by a French side whose players seem at odds with the coach, will be the subject of lengthy discussions in bars around the world this evening.
For all their dominance, France could only really muster one scoring opportunity when Ribery delivered a perfect cross only for Govou to skid the ball wide of the post instead of blasting it into the back of the net.
Uruguay’s first half one shot on target — oh that is so Stoke City — came from my man of the match Diego Forlan. His snap shot had French goalkeeper Lloris at full stretch but the keeper held on to the ball.
Forlan seems like the reincarnation of Denis Law, the Manchester United and Scotland striker of the 1960s and 1970s. Like Law, Forlan is blond-haired, slender in build, quick on the ball, turns defenders with ease and wears the number 10 on his shirt.
The best chance of Uruguay winning this match fell to Forlan in the 73rd minute when his low shot from 12 yards had the necessary power but skewed off target. I have a feeling Denis would have put that one away.
France just seemed unable to fire on all cylinders. No doubt coach Domenech will do a bit of fine tuning before the encounter with Mexico on June 17 but on this showing it could be argued France need a completely new engine.
It will not worry me in the slightest if France makes an early exit from the World Cup. They are not a national side I warm to in the same way that I warm to Germany, Italy, Holland or Argentina.
I wonder if it has something to do with me being English? Or could it be because Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger is French? Stoke fans of a certain age hate Arsenal and for good reason.
I can imagine Pulis tonight turning to anyone who will listen and telling them that his approach to football, like Uruguay’s, delivers results.
His approach could well be justified and Stoke’s third year in the Premier League would suggest it is so, but I am left wondering why Stoke City player Uruguay international midfielder Diego Arismendi only made two starts for the club last season and was loaned out to League One side Brighton and Hove Albion. It seems to me like a waste of the £2.6 million Arismendi cost
It would have been great for Stoke City fans if Arismendi had been part of his national side’s sterling backs-to-the wall performance against France today.
Watching this match on ESPN was a bit like sitting in a beehive thanks to the constant drone of the vuvuzelas being blown by the crowd. I wonder if they will manage to drown out the Brazilian samba drums or the Dutch brass band?