The Cup Running Over

June 10, 2010 10:11 PM

Group A: France v. Uruguay Preview

Europe's biggest underachiever faces off with the South American team of the same distinction. On paper, France - as usual - looks the much better side, and Uruguay may struggle to contain France's wide players. Uruguay plays a traditional 3-5-2, with two very hard-working wingbacks - Alvaro Pereira on the left, Maxi Pereira on the right (no relation) - covering the wide positions, meaning that these two players must shoulder both the offensive and defensive burdens on the wings entirely on their own. France has a plethora of wide players, all recently given even more license in its new 4-3-3 formation. On the right there is Sidney Govou and the attack-minded defender Bacary Sagna, and the left there is the dangerous Franck Ribery supported by Patrice Evra (Florent Malouda, a natural left-winger, is deployed out of place in central midfield, but has a tendency to drift wide into his preferred wider position too). France will want to use its numerical advantage on the wings to supply the striker - Yoann Gourcuff, the typical central playmaker, is likely to be tightly man-marked by Walter Gargano and will struggle to find space.

For France, the key to stopping Uruguay is of course to smother its immensely talented strikers Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who scored over 60 goals between them this past season. Centerbacks William Gallas and Eric Abidal will have to be at their best, and holding midfielder Jeremy Toulalan, who occasionally likes to get forward, will have to stay back and help out. Forlan's pace may especially be a problem for the aging Gallas.

France Lithuania WC.jpg Can Gallas Stop Forlan? (Courtesy --

If France can take these two out of the game, and press their numerical advantage in wide positions, it has a good chance to take all three points. However, over the past two years this France side has looked lifeless in the final third, and having only been playing a new, attack-minded 4-3-3 for the past two weeks, it remains to be seen how effective a new formation will be. This game should tell us. Just don't expect many goals or much excitement for that matter.

Steven and Harrison Stark are the co-authors of the recently published World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics. They are analyzing the World Cup for Real Clear Sports

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