Faltering France frustrate Malouda

Chelsea forward is unhappy to warm the bench but Domenech's men find the 'new Vieira' in Arsenal's Diaby
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Chelsea's French forward Florent Malouda has admitted he found it "frustrating" to be kept on the bench until the last 15 minutes of Friday's World Cup stalemate with Uruguay.

Les Blues failed to win in their opening group match for the third successive World Cup as Raymond Domenech's misfiring side failed to find a way past their Group A opponents at Green Point Stadium here.

Domenech deployed Malouda, Thierry Henry and André Pierre Gignac off the bench but Malouda said it was disappointing to come on with just 15 minutes left.

"It's frustrating," he said. "But that's life. I hope I get a chance to show my quality. Hopefully we can take this [point] as an opportunity to move on. That will be important."

After Group A rivals South Africa and Mexico drew 1-1 in Friday's opening match, Domenech believes it is they who hold the advantage.

"We lacked that last bit, the last pass," Domenech admitted. "We had to guard against an unlucky counter [by the opposition]. It is almost a beautiful 0-0, but the result is what it is. They were good, solid in defence."

The former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan had a few opportunities for the South Americans, whose emphasis was on keeping tight and looking to counter.

France, though, had chances to win the game, not least in the seventh minute when winger Sidney Govou somehow side-footed wide from close range after Franck Ribéry's teasing left-wing cross.

The outgoing France coach added: "The other two have the advantage."

France are certainly still looking to unearth a new Zinedine Zidane, but they at least seem to have found the next Patrick Vieira. Arsenal's Abou Diaby (pictured below) was a ray a hope in the lacklustre draw, stepping out of the shadow of Vieira, who is now in the twilight of his career and did not make the squad.

A surprise starter against Uruguay, the powerful 24-year-old midfielder was his side's best player by a long way and now seems an automatic choice for Domenech.

Diaby, who had been convincing when he came on in France's three warm-up games, treated the France fans to a performance reminiscent of Vieira. The lanky frame and the ability to win the ball and advance it up the field with calm authority brought to mind Vieira in his pomp.

Diaby, who plays for the Gunners in the role once filled by the former France captain, is now ready to do the same for the 1998 World Cup winners.

"I tried to do my job but I really wanted us to win this game," Diaby said, putting aside his own display to admit it was two points dropped by France. "Personally I think that I can do even better."

Diaby, who had a decent season for Arsenal and earned warm praise from his club manager Arsène Wenger, knew his hour might come in South Africa for two reasons.

His fellow holding midfielder Lassana Diarra has been ruled out of the finals by illness while Domenech's new, more attacking 4-3-3 formation seems to suit Diaby.

"He's an interesting player, both defensively and in attack, and he did not disappoint me," Domenech said after Diaby advanced his case to be a regular starter.

One man alone, however, is not enough to spark a French renaissance, and Diaby realises Les Bleus, who next face Mexico and then World Cup hosts South Africa in Group A, need to translate possession into chances.

"We're lacking something in the last 30 metres," he said. "That's something we'll work on during the rest of the competition and we will get better."

The Uruguay coach, Oscar Tabarez, whose side were not bullied in terms of possession by the 1998 champions, said: "The pitch was not particularly good. It created some problems for us controlling the ball. Bearing in mind what happened in the game and that France, a recent world champion who are very well organised and prepared, I think it is not a bad result, bearing all this in mind. The results in the second round of matches are now more important because both opening matches ended in draws."

Tabarez was forced to defend his team's discipline on the eve of the match and had to do the same on Friday after substitute Nicolas Lodeiro was sent off for two bookings.

"I think that football is one thing, and that behaviour on the pitch is a different kettle of fish," the Uruguay coach said. "Theoretically, any card is avoidable but I was once a player and I know what it is like to be out there. So I understand my players' point of view."