The curse of the goalless draw struck again for France and Uruguay on Wednesday, as Didier Deschamps’ first game at the French helm ended in a 0-0 stalemate in Le Havre.
It was the fourth consecutive match between the countries to finish goalless, although France twice struck the frame of the goal in their first match since Laurent Blanc left his post after their quarter-final exit at Euro 2012.
Deschamps awarded debuts to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Christophe Jallet and Etienne Capoue, as he sought to use his first and final opportunity to experiment before France’s opening 2014 World Cup qualifier in Finland on Sept. 7.
“The most difficult thing in football is to score a goal,” Deschamps said. “We did some good things. We created quite a few opportunities against a team who know each other well. Their starting XI has lots of players with more than 50 caps. We had seven players with less than 10 caps. Some of our players are still undergoing pre-season. We’ll be better collectively in our next match.”
Uruguay are now unbeaten in 18 matches, and although the South American champions offered little in attack, they showcased all the ruggedness that has helped them rise to a FIFA ranking of fourth in the world.
“It was a tight match, with very few chances,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. “It was like the last three matches between the teams, which were all draws, but there was a lot of pressure, which will serve us well for our next World Cup qualifier against Colombia [on Sept. 7].”
For his first game in charge, Deschamps handed a start to Montpellier centerback Yanga-Mbiwa, while Lille midfielder Rio Mavuba made his first France appearance for nearly five-and-a-half years.
Despite the disciplinary flare-ups that punctuated France’s Euro 2012 campaign, Le Havre’s new Stade Oceane was sold out, with 25,000 spectators present to witness the start of the Deschamps era.
Uruguay’s conservatism allowed France to dominate possession, but aside from a 14th-minute header from Yanga-Mbiwa that visiting goalkeeper Fernando Muslera touched onto the post, France were initially kept at arm’s length.
However, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani rested after the Olympics, Uruguay also lacked bite in attack, and the small pocket of away fans had to wait until the 43rd minute to see Diego Forlan drive a shot wide from 20m.
An injury to Mathieu Debuchy saw Paris Saint-Germain rightback Jallet come on to make his debut in the first half, while Mavuba made way for another debutant, Toulouse midfielder Capoue, at the interval.
Capoue quickly created France’s clearest opening, his side-footed center from the right met by a back-post volley from Mathieu Valbuena that forced Muslera into a sprawling save.
France came even closer on the hour, but Karim Benzema’s sweet volley from Patrice Evra’s lofted pass cannoned back off the right-hand post and bounced out of play for a throw-in.
Deschamps has persisted with Hugo Lloris as captain and the Lyon goalkeeper enjoyed a quiet evening until a back-post effort from Sebastian Abreu forced him to save with his feet with 20 minutes to play.
Substitute Bafetimbi Gomis led France’s charge in the game’s final quarter, first testing Muslera with a low drive and then fluffing his lines from close range in injury time.
All in all, it was a largely encouraging first outing for Deschamps’ much-changed side, although a chorus of boos greeted the final whistle.