Uruguay vs. France: Who will win their World Cup face off?

With the tap of a player's hand in their qualifying match against Ireland, the French team advanced to the South Africa World Cup. Here's what to expect in Uruguay vs. France at 8:30 pm (2:30 pm EST).

Frank Fife/AP
France's national soccer team players gather on the field at Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Friday, before their first 2010 World Cup match against Uruguay beginning at 8:30 pm (2:30 pm EST).

France shouldn’t even be in the World Cup. Just ask any Irishman.

The team edged out Ireland for a spot in at the South Africa World Cup thanks to a blatant handball penalty by France's golden boy striker. Thierry Henry tapped the ball to a teammate, who was then able to score and win France's last qualifying game in November.

Despite advancing to the World Cup in that most scandalous of ways, the 2006 runners-up and 1998 champions will again be formidable – and they are favored to beat Uruguay in their first Group A match.

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True, France failed to impress during the qualifying rounds. True, coach Raymond Domenech has largely failed thus far to inspire or unite bickering players. True, the team of veterans has lost a bit of the explosiveness it once had.

But the talent assembled on Les Bleues is enough to many any top coach salivate. France is a team so deep that one of the world’s highest-paid players, Mr. Henry, is not even in the starting lineup. One has to think that a team with such proven performers as striker Nicolas Anelka, midfielder Franck Ribery, and defender William Gallas has what it takes to defeat the scrappy Uruguay.

Uruguay is often overlooked, because it rests perpetually in the shadow of neighboring South American soccer giants Argentina and Brazil, but they have a rich and enviable World Cup history, having won the tournament twice (1930 and 1950). And their deadly duo up front – strikers Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez – will surely test France’s sturdy defense.

If Mr. Forlan or Mr. Suarez finds the back of the net early in the match, it could be a litmus test for Les Bleues: Will they band together or will they devolve into a pack of fingerpointing prima donnas?

The French seem to expect the latter. A recent poll showed that only 27 percent of French fans believed the team would make it past the group stage.

The prognosticators are also giving Les Blues the cold shoulder, with very few analysts naming France among the top teams. But don’t be surprised if they slice through opponents right up to the championship game, starting with Uruguay.

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World Cup 101:

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