Belarus 1-1 France: Les Bleus held after disappointing performance
Les Bleus fail to overcome the Eastern Europeans, as poor performance and wasteful finishing means they miss the chance to pull further ahead in Group D.
By Mohammed Ali
France was held to a disapponting 1-1 draw away to Belarus in Group D of Euro 2012 qualifiying at Stadyen Dynama in Minsk.
The hosts took a shock lead in the 20th minute which saw Eric Abidal score an own goal after a period of dominance for Bernd Stange's men.
Despite the setback, France raced back on level terms within two minutes when a quick break saw Florent Malouda equalize after a lay-off from Karim Benzema.
In the second half, it wasted further chances, with Benzema and Malouda spurning opportunities to take the three points as Belarus held on to claim a deserved point.
The hosts enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges in Minsk, with the Belarusians focusing on an attacking tempo to unsettle the visitors. Igor Shitov went close with the first real attacking endeavour, and his 25-yard shot forced an alert Hugo Lloris into tipping the ball over the bar.
The Eastern Europeans pushed their Gallic opponents to their own half as they surged forward in creating chances. Stange’s side got its opener in the 20th minute after a period of perseverance.
Les Bleus, who had not conceded in the qualifiers since their shock slip-up to the same side in September, went behind after a threatening ball was whipped into the box from the left and caught out a static French defense. Abidal, who enjoyed a good outing in the Champions League final last weekend, mistakenly put the ball into his own net to give Belarus a deserved lead.
The advantage lasted for less than two minutes as France rebounded onits poor start. A fast break enabled a pin-point low cross into the box to Benzema, who showed good composure to retrieve the ball and lay off for Malouda, with the Chelsea midfielder expertly tucking the ball past Sergei Veremko and into the bottom corner to restore parity.
Benzema should have increased Les Bleus’ lead before half-time when a cross from Samir Nasri evaded the defense and found the Real Madrid man in acres of space, yet somehow the striker sliced his effort and missed altogether. Seconds later, Alou Diarra flashed a header inches wide, following a corner as Les Bleus finally added some pressure in their attempt to dominate the encounter.
Franck Ribery and Benzema linked up well, with the former lashing a low drive into the side netting as Belarus’ attacking threat became increasingly limited by an improving France at the break. Nevertheless, the teams entered the interval at 1-1, with the hosts taking heart from a solid firsthalf performance.
Frustrated Frenchmen | Nasri and company failed to earn the victory
A dour start to the second period was only lit up by Malouda putting the ball into the back of the net, but the strike was rightly chalked off as Ribery was adjudged to be marginally offside.
Play became restricted to the middle of the park, with both sides failing to create any sort of offensive spark. Laurent Blanc’s side began stringing together passes, yet Benzema and Malouda again wasted the gilt-edges chances afforded to them as frustration began to grow.
Belarus lost the attacking threat it possessed in the first half, as it struggled to contain the visitors’ unrelenting onslaught on its goal.
The profligacy from the French attackers continued, when substitute Loic Remy took advantage Dimitry Verkhovtsov’s poor header, yet the Marseille man’s shot was quickly saved by the onrushing Veremko, with Remy penalized for having fouled the defender with the home side content on taking a well-deserved point.
The visitors were again denied a winner by the linesman’s flag, but a distinctly average performance saw them fail against a spirited Belarus squad, whose assured defensive display snuffed out France’s considerable attacking force.
Laurent Blanc’s side still sits top of Group D by a four-point margin over its opponents despite the setback. France now needs to regroup as it faces Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine and Poland on Monday and Thursday, respectively. Belarus entertains group minnows Luxembourg on Tuesday evening.Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!
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