France 1-1 Romania: Paris Draw Wounds Les Bleus Automatic Qualification Hopes

France

Les Bleus’ recent woes have continued by virtue of their draw against the Tricolorii at the Stade de Franc.

France went into their World Cup qualifier againstRomania needing all three points to keep their hopes of automatic qualification alive, but Raymond Domenech’s men could only secure a 1-1 draw.

Despite a bright start to the encounter the sides went in level at half-time, but the hosts snatched a much-deserved lead through Thierry Henry early in the second period. This advantage proved short-lived, with an own goal from Nicolas Escude ultimately ensure the sides would share the points.

Much of the pre-match discussion circulated around the attitude of the home crowd towards their players, but France started the game in an upbeat fashion, ensuring their fans were firmly behind them at the outset.

Playing in an upbeat and open manner, les Bleus hammered forward in the opening stages of the game, shredding the visiting rearguard to ribbons at times. Patrice Evra was particularly lively in the opening stages of the match, and it was his encouraging burst down the left that created an opening for Henry after five minutes, though France’s record scorer could not beat the alert Danut Coman. 

Les Bleus continued the theme of pressurising their opponents’ net, Lassana Diarra flashing a long-range shot comfortably wide. 

If the Real Madrid man’s effort had been inadequate to really disconcert the Romanians, Henry’ header from a Yoann Gourcuff free kick moments later would certainly have left the Eastern Europeans jittery as it left their bar shaking. Nicolas Anelka then wasted the follow-up as the ball was recycled, slashing hopelessly into the side netting from an ambitious angle while Andre-Pierre Gignac and William Gallas were well placed.

Greed may have prevented France grabbing the advantage on that occasion, but sheer excellence from Coman would soon block their path to goal. The stopper had just comfortably snaffled a shot on the turn from Anelka after Gignac, the graceful bulldozer, instigated the opening with deceptively fast feet and no little strength, but the custodian would soon be forced to perform heroics.

A smart turn from Gourcuff in the centre of the park set the move in motion, creating the space to float a delightful travela pass to Anelka. In the right channel, the Chelsea man had his shot blocked, but the ball rebounded kindly to Gignac, whose sweetly struck shot would surely have found the net had it not been for a world class save.

This would be France at the height of their first half powers, playing with pace, tempo and fluidity – arguably their best spell of their World Cup qualifying campaign to date. As if to emphasise the point, Henry scampered down the left and sent in a delicious centre for Anelka, who saw the net gaping but also Coman doing just enough to turn the ball away from his forehead.

Such creativity and imagination could not be sustained by les Bleus, whose pace gradually dropped as the half wore on. Indeed, Romania, who had occasionally threatened on the counterattack, would have the plum chance of the closing stages of the first period. Superb play down the right from Ciprian Marica took his away from Escude, and his cut-back really should’ve been turned into the net by Romeo Surdu, who instead side-footed agonisingly past Hugo Lloris’ post.

After starting the first half with a bang, the home side went one better early in the second. A Gourcuff corner was flicked on by the head of Gallas to Henry, who sent an unerring first-time shot into the net to record his 49th international goal.

The Barcelona forward’s strike appeared to have France on course for South Africa, but this qualification campaign has been fraught with unwelcome surprises, and this fixture would be no different. Less than eight minutes after falling behind, Iulian Apostol sent in a teasing cross that rattled off
Escude’s leg and ended up in the back of the French net, leaving Lloris utterly helpless.

Initially les Bleus’ response was encouraging, buoyed by the introduction of Franck Ribery. Henry headed the ball into the net forcefully from a Gourcuff centre only to see his effort ruled out due to an offside flag, before the same player had a big chance blocked by Cristian Chivu, who was quite magisterial at the heart of the Tricolorii defence in the second period.

When Karim Benzema was introduced for Gourcuff, France’s effectiveness seemed to drop down a notch, though by this stage their efforts to push on were becoming increasingly frantic as Romania defended in greater numbers, hoping for substitute Mihai Roman to orchestrate a decisive opening, which he nearly did in the minutes after his introduction with some neat feet in the box.

A deflected Benzema free kick that was turned away by Comen and a big penalty shout after a rare erroneous moment from Chivu allowed a ball to bounce up and strike a team-mate on the arm was about as exciting as it got for the home side, who have yet to discover the art of effectively killing off a match.

Having claimed only a point from a game they were firmly expected to win, France’s hopes of automatic qualification for South Africa seem decimated. Even if they are to win in Belgrade on Wednesday, they will remain behind Serbia by a point with only two games remaining. 

While Raymond Domenech’s woes continue, Razvan Lucescu, the Romanian coach, remains unbeaten and can take credit from this encounter – despite watching his side effectively bow out of the World Cup, it was done in a noble manner.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on September 6, 2009.

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