Laurent Blanc’s men trailed deep into the match, but the introduction of Olivier Giroud inspired them to a win in their first Euro 2012 warmup gameFrance preserved its lengthy undefeated sequence as it fought back from two goals down to salvage a 3-2 victory against Iceland in Valenciennes.
The visitors had looked set to be unlikely winners of the match as they Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Birkir Bjarnason before the interval, but Mathieu Debuchy triggered the hosts’ comeback. Laurent Blanc’s men left things late, though, with Franck Ribery and Adil Rami both finding the target in the last five minutes.
France fed off the atmosphere in the opening stages of the game and fueled the crowd with some enterprising early play, particularly from wingers Hatem Ben Arfa and Jeremy Menez, who was fouled right on the edge of the box.
It lacked real danger to its attacks, and against the run of play the hungry visitors would punish it severely. Lackluster defending from Philippe Mexes saw him outjumped by Sigthorsson, whose header picked out Bjarnason. The winger had wandered too easily away from Patrice Evra and finished well from a difficult angle was excellent.
Sigthorsson would add a second only five minutes later, tapping in easily from close range as Rurik Gislason escaped the attentions of the sleeping Evra down the visitors’ right.
During the first period, France served largely to disappoint, despite mustering a trio of significant penalty appeals that were all ignored. There were signs before the break, though, that its forwards were starting to gel, but Karim Benzema skewed their best opening wide after good work from Ben Arfa.
Immediately after the break the Newcastle player was involved in the thick of the action, but after a clever chest from Benzema, he was sufficiently distracted by the packed defense to shoot wide from a good position.
There was now more energy about France, and within minutes its had drawn itself back into the match through the unlikely source of right back Debuchy, whose willingness to attack was finally recompensed when a ball broke kindly to the hosts in the box, allowing him to easily slot home.
What followed was very nearly a tale of frustration for the hosts as their opponents defended stoutly, blocking countless shots from the edge of the box and preventing the visitors getting a clear sight of goal. Substitute Mathieu Valbuena perhaps had France’s best opening, but after clever work to create space, he shot just wide.
Indeed, Iceland might well have added to their tally on the break, but Steve Mandanda saved excellently from Bjarnason as the home defense was again nowhere.
It would live to regret this miss as France launched its salvage mission with the introduction of Olivier Giroud, whose deft pass to Ribery set up the Bayern Munich star for a lofted finish. Moments later, the Montpellier center forward helped secure the turnaround with a wonderful header to Rami, whose first-time finish won the game.
Although France toiled for much of this match, Blanc can be pleased with the character of his side, who go into Friday’s friendly against Serbia on a 19-match unbeaten run.
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